How are you feeding your dog? Do you just put the feed in the bowl, dump it on the floor and leave? Well, if you are then you are missing out on a golden training opportunity and you may just be inadvertently reinforcing undesirable behaviours in your dog.
At every opportunity you should be combining feeding time with training and exercise. Here are some ways in which our foster carers use feeding time to their advantage.
We use bowl feeding as a training opportunity for impulse control and reinforcing cues such as Wait and Release.
Scatter feeding is a brain game, scatter or hide food in the yard for them that they have to sniff out. It combines brain power and physical movement and not only keeps them occupied for longer but is a great distraction technique.
You bury dry food or treats throughout the mat to create a scavenger hunt for your dog.Getting them to use their nose and brain to sniff out every morsel of food you are effectively making them work for their dinner. It taps into their natural instinct to hunt, track and forage, it's mentally stimulating and all that thinking and problem solving is exhausting, they will be tired afterwards.
Enrichment feeding is exercise for both their brain and their body - they have to explore ways of getting that yummy food out of that toy/bottle/hidey hole. Best of all you don't have to fork out for expensive toys, try a plastic water bottle, egg cartons or a cardboard box.
It keeps them busy longer than bowl feeding and most, if not all, dogs enjoy problem solving. It's fun! They get to chase, crunch, push, chew, drag and destroy things with your permission!
Each time you give your dog some food for no reason is a wasted opportunity for some training even if it's just to brush up on their obedience training. Your dog should learn that food is not free! It's to be earned and it comes from you - their leader.
So hand feeding is simply using the food portions you would have feed them at meal time throughout the day, rewarding them for desired behaviour. Hand feeding can help:
There is no firm rule that says you have to feed your dog meals in a bowl each and every day, so go a head - mix it up! Meal times will be so much more fun for them, it will cement the bond between you and your pet, and they will learn a thing or two at the same time.
That's a win-win all round.