27 Sep, 2015

Dog Food Training

food training techniques 1
27 Sep, 2015

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

J. R. R Tolkien

Food has always been perhaps the one thing that all species look forward to: sustenance, survival, power. There are many studies and academic journals that detail the uses of food for the various purposes in hierarchies in societies. Even today! I.e The rich dine on very expensive, but high quality Kobe beef, etc etc whilst the common man dines on regular food (This is not to say that regular food is any less nutritious however). In the realm of training dogs, this hierarchy is especially prevalent in the wild: The alpha males aka pack leaders will often have the first bite, and the lion’s share of any food that is hunted. Why? Simply because he is the Alpha. This instinct isn’t lost on our beloved household pooches: The alpha will ALWAYS CONTROL THE FOOD. While some people may dispute this, the research and observations cannot be denied nor ignored. This is where dog food training techniques come into play. This is also why training your dog for this is one of the great dog training tips around.

In light of what was said above, basically dog food training is just taking advantage of the dog’s natural instinct and sense of hierarchy and turning it in our favor i.e. we become their pack leader so that they listen to US, instead of the other way round. Of course, there is a chance that you’re not exactly rewarding your dog; rather, you’re BRIBING your dog with food treats (aka misusing treats/food training).

This also works when training a puppy – in fact, it is much better to start training a puppy like this, because they’ll be a lot more receptive than when they’re a little older. Despite the old adage of ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’, old dogs CAN learn them, but it’s just easier training a puppy than training an older dog.

Example : When you issue a command to your dog to, say, ‘sit’, and he does, you give him a training treat. That is a REWARD. A BRIBE is when you command your dog to ‘sit’, but doesn’t. Not even after several attempts to get him to sit verbally. Only when you take out a training treat, then your dog decides to sit. That’s what we should aim to avoid! Yes, I know sometimes we all do it accidentally because we weren’t aware of it, or whatever reason. That’s okay! If you think you’re bribing your dog now, its not too late to change the pattern!

(Note : If you’re training your dog, another valuable dog training tip is that you can also give other treats apart from food! You could always bring him for a walk, or affection. You can always vary the rewards so that your dog is less likely to want a ‘bribe’, so to speak)

To those who have never a trained a dog, this section is for you! For the rest, you can see the section further down. TIP: REMEMBER TO BE CONSISTENT WITH WHAT YOU SAY AND DO! The dog food training techniques require consistency with your words and actions, or it won’t work.

Training a dog to be in any position (lying down, sit) basically is all about positioning. This technique is called the lure.

  1. To start, when you want your dog to say, sit, hold your training treat about 1 inch away from your dog’s nose (to get him interested). Make sure it isn’t too far away from his nose, or he won’t stay in that position.
  2. Next, as you have your dog’s attention, gently guide your dog into the position you want your dog to be in. In this case, all you have to do is slowly raise the height of the treat and let it go over his head. Your dog should follow the smell of the treat with his nose. When he does, he should naturally sit down. Ta-da! Your dog is now sitting.
    (Note: If your dog doesn’t sit, I would recommend that you NOT force his butt down. Dogs don’t particularly like being forced to do things, and neither do we humans.)
  3. The moment your dog’s butt touches the ground,  you can say ‘good’ (or ‘yes’ or anything you want actually) and then give the training treat in your hand.
  4. Encourage your dog to stand from the sitting position. Then, repeat steps 1-3 until he follows the treat lure in your hands, and sits down when you say ‘sit’.

To train your dog to lie down, its similar to the 4 steps above. However, you’ll need to have the ‘sit’ as a prerequisite.

  1. When your dog is sitting, issue the cue “down”.
  2. Same thing, hold the treat in your fingers about an inch away from his nose, just enough for your dog to be able to smell and lick it, but not eat it.
  3. Slowly move it straight down his nose, until its somewhere in between his front paws, on the ground. You dog should still be following the treat with his nose, and his head should be bent down to the ground!
  4. Once you see his head bent and very near the floor, you can proceed to slowly move the treat away from his head (towards you) like an L shape. At this point, your dog should be easing into the “down” position already. Once he is in the position, say what you used before (i.e. good, yes. etc but BE CONSISTENT) and give the treat to your dog.
  5.  After that, encourage your dog to return to his default position (you can either set it as his typical standing, or sitting.) Repeat steps 1-4 until your dog understands and does the “down”. CONGRATS! YOU JUST TAUGHT YOUR DOG 2 TRICKS (Pat yourself on the back. Job well done friend!)

Next up, the part 2 of the learning process : Not using any treats. Basically, use the same steps as above; but just don’t have a treat in your hands. Let your dog follow your empty hands. Once he sits/downs, say your own cue word and give him a treat!

As he learns more, eventually you can lessen your hand movements and just offer verbal commands. You can, of course, modify what you taught at any given time; if your dog has problems following your orders with just verbal commands, you can revert back to using your hands. Just make sure to eventually lessen the movements to eventually teach your dog to just listen to verbal commands. All in all, your dog should be able to get this in a week or less per command. That’s all there is to the food training techniques! The steps above can be applied to other tricks too, such as stay!

However, don’t be afraid to admit that sometimes, dogs can be more than what we can handle. That’s okay! It’s at times like this where having a structured lesson plan can help us. I recommend having a look at our lesson plan here to start you off.

 

To the rest of the more experienced owners, I also hope that the dog training tips above will aid you in any way in training your dog! Nonetheless, here are some variants and advice that could enhance any training you have your dog already :-

  1. You can use any kind of treats, but it would be best to use the softer kind first, and make it small. Softer treats mean dogs will be able to eat it quicker, which saves some time vs a hard treat. Small treats should be used to prevent possible ‘overfeeding’ – plus, small sized treats mean you can be more generous with the quantity!
  2. You can always vary the different kinds of treats – you don’t necessarily have to give ‘dog treats’ from the store per se; You can always try bits of chicken, cheese, fruits, or even vegetables. Who knows, your dog might actually like these more than the store bought treats!
  3. It would also be good if you were to give physical affection when you’re giving him treats – this usually lets the dog form a stronger association of the commands you’re giving him with a good thing!
  4. However, you should save your dog’s favourite, special treats for especially trying environments i.e. when there is a lot of distractions at home, at a dog park, or when you’re walking your dog in crowded environments.
  5. Lastly, DON’T OVERDO IT! You want a well-trained dog, not a fat (but well-trained) one. Unless you intended for your dog to be fat, then sure. I don’t judge. 🙂

That said, don’t be afraid to seek professional help if you feel that my tutorial isn’t comprehensive enough! Dog training tips will usually work, but if you do want to seek professional help online, I recommend the Online Dog Trainer – concise and structured so that you’ll benefit from his teaching the most.

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