Training with Food
first published August 2018
Begin with scatter feeding
You WILL be fedIf the scent of food is very arousing, keep several food reserve pots out in places where the dog can smell them but cannot reach them. The top of the fridge is an excellent place, or the very back of a kitchen counter. Every now and then when your dog is not paying attention call him, walk calmly to the pot and practice the feeding exercise. Vary this between different pots – good for recall practice too! The dog will learn that feeding is a frequent process through the day, in association with people, and clear delivery patterns can set up a good lifetime habit. If you are training with a dog that is more than a little enthusiastic to eat finger as well as treats, you can employ a cup on a stick. This is a small measuring cup with one piece of food in the cup. We want to place the food to the floor, not let the dog take it from the cup. Avoid letting the dog grab the cup as well. When they are eating the piece on the floor, use the moment to load the next piece to the cup, make sure the dog knows there is food in the cup and again deliver to the floor. When the process reduces the enthusiasm for hands, you can begin to shorten the stick so that the hand gets closer to the cup. Eventually you will be able to hold the cup in your hand and deliver to the floor. This is a process familiar in training zoo and exotic animals where hand feeding could be dangerous, or that the tiger may be fearful of hands. Protective delivery.
Lunging for the food
Be Clear about Blocking
We want to teach the dog what to do, not make them worry about what they are doing wrong.
Hands can have very specific language when they are used consistently. My hand palm up will encourage the pup to come towards that hand – because they have learned this is how to collect a treat, and probably get some affection as well.
The hand palm towards the dog should be clear that it means “hold your position …. ohmygoodness …. food is at your feet!”. It teaches the pup what to do and because they hold their position food will arrive from the other hand to the floor.
This association with the palm towards the pup will need regular refreshing over many months and in as many different situations as possible. I have food stations around the house to be able to practice frequently and I use the “block” hand to teach the pup to hold position whilst:
I open the car door – to block her from jumping into the driver’s seat, or jumping out of the rear.
bend over to place your food bowl to the floor
to block you from hitting my mug of hot tea
intermittently as I work at the kitchen counter
When the pup is reliable you can think about adding a word to this, but try not to choose “no”. “Block” or “hold” are good cues.
Connect and Share
sounds like a biscuit …….