Tag Archives: rewards

Dinner-time should be fun/exercise/focus/training-time!

What does your dog learn while eating his dinner?

How to inhale a meal in record breaking time…?

…we need to talk…

Decker earns his meal by catching it, chasing it and sniffing it, and although this is certainly lots of fun, he’s also learning lots, such as, to choose his human over all the stuff in the park like dogs, other people, wildlife, smells and goings on, that his human is where the fun is, responsiveness is rewarding even when distracted and excited and boring kibble can be great!


Don’t waste these opportunities by feeding from a bowl – think of every mouthful of food for your dog as an opportunity to reward desirable behaviour. And if you do that, your dog will choose unwanted behaviour less.

Don’t worry if you don’t feed kibble, you can still inject fun/training/exercise/focus into meal times!

(Depending on which components you feed here are some ideas that I have used in such situations)

  • freezing raw e.g. minces into nuggets in an ice-cube tray and hiding those
  • using a high quality/grain free kibble
  • drying dietary components to make jerky – works especially well for offal components
  • the use of freeze dried treats with a high meat content may be counted toward diet
  • bone or whole organ components can be used in scent games
  • stuff Kongs or similar with minces or soften components and bring on walks or use as rewards in training, by offering a couple of licks for example

Fun, focus, exercise and training packed into just one meal!

For more on making ‘boring’ rewards more rewarding here.


Training Game 4.2



By now your dog loves finding your face and that’s going to be worked on as a default behaviour.

But, we’re also going to add a cue-word so that you can ask your dog for eye contact when needed.

Today’s Games

Time Allowance:
Practice for 1-2 minute sessions and then take a break. Have a few  sessions today.

Try fitting  each short session into your routine; for example, while you wait for the kettle to boil, during the ad break of your TV show or while you wait for the computer to start up.

Family Participation:
Kids are often great dog trainers. Teach each child how to play this game safely – have your child sit in a chair to practice.

If your dog is mouthy,  jumpy or likely to get over-excited it might be best for you to get the behaviours established and then bring in the kids to help with practice.
Always supervise child-dog interactions and make sure children learn to leave the dog alone when eating his rewards.

Top Tip for Today’s Training Game:
Your LOOK! cue is going to be used to call your dog’s attention away from different distractions, some that are very rewarding to your dog.
This means we need to take care of this cue and only use it we are certain that the dog will be able to LOOK!.

To achieve that we need to associate really really yummy treats with our LOOK! cue.

You will need:

  • Training Mix
  • toys or other high value rewards

Beginner Level Games:

Introducing the LOOK! cue:

  • play Find my Face a couple of times
  • drop at treat at your toe
  • when he eats the treat, and just before he lifts his head, say LOOK! in an upbeat tone
  • say YES! when he finds your face and drop another treat to repeat

Practice in short sessions of 5-10 repetitions.


Surprise your dog

After some practice with the LOOK! cue, try surprising your dog.

Wait for him to be just mildly distracted, staring into space or just sniffing in the garden.

Have a yummy treat ready, ask him to LOOK! and reward.

Repeat a couple of times to really help your dog get that this cue may happen at any time and always results in yummy things.

Advanced Level Games:

LOOK! & distractions

This game will help to teach your dog that to gain access to distractions he must first make eye contact:

  • show your dog a treat or a toy and hold it out to your side
  • when he looks at the distraction/reward, say LOOK!
  • wait for him to make eye contact
  • say YES!
  • reward with the treat or the throw of the toy


LOOK! away from distractions

For this exercise, you need really really high value rewards that can compete against a lower level distraction.

More on understanding rewards & distractions.

Present a controlled distraction and as soon as your dog looks at it say LOOK!.

When he gives eye contact, say YES! and reward.


Dog can’t LOOK?
  • give your dog a little more distance from the distraction
  • use a less enticing distraction
  • reward with higher value rewards


Another challenging training plan done – yay!

Before we start with our first game…

Wohoo! Let’s start preparing for the start of our plans on Monday – here’s your first task:

Make a Training Mix

Rather than introduce lots and lots of treats for our training program, we will use our dogs’ regular, everyday food in our games.
But, no more getting their food for free – this program will encourage your dog to work for each piece!


No matter what you feed your dog you will be able to use this food, rather than in a food bowl, for many of our games over the entire program.

Here’s our video showing you how to use your dog’s regular food for training games: 

Dry food e.g. kibble:

  • measure out your dog’s daily rations and place in a lunchbox or bag
    (remove about 5-10% if you go with the higher-cal option below)

Option 1 (low-cal)

  • add a chunk of your dog’s favourite such as tripe (dried or frozen), chicken, ham, hotdog or cheese
    (your dog won’t get to eat this treat)

Option 2 (higher-cal)

  • add a little of your dog’s favourite treats, chopped up small (third fingernail size)
  • seal the bag or lunchbox and mix the contents
  • leave in the fridge overnight
  • next day, everything will smell yummier!

Wet food e.g. raw, tinned:

  • measure out your dog’s meal as normal into a container


  • if you feed whole organs, cut muscle meat into small pieces or mince the meat


  • stuff food into a Kong toy or similar – this can be hidden for sniffing games or offered to the dog to lick a bit as a reward during training games


  • administer wet food on a wooden spoon as a training reward


  • freeze spoonfuls of wet food in an icecube tray – little frozen nuggets of wet food are great for sniffing games and energising games

If you are worried about handling wet or raw food during training exercises, keep a pair of surgical gloves with your training-mix so that you are always ready to reward desired behaviour.