Using Food in Dog Training

To the puppy, eating is akin to breathing. Having a full belly doesn’t just provide nourishment; it can displace the nervousness brought on by hunger pangs. Your pet’s full tummy gives him a warm glow that lets him know that he is connected securely to his group. For this reason, we should never hesitate to use food when we’re training.

Because eating is very basic to a pup, he can easily be excited by a treat. If he snaps very hard at your hand rushing to get the food, don’t get mad or correct him. Simply take some time to get him calm by feeding him steadily so that he knows that he will be getting all the food he desires. As he gets satisfied, his urge to snap will subside and he can learn to eat safely from your hand.

Food can be effectively used in adult dogs also. It shows the dog that there is an instinctive advantage to doing what his owner wants. An adult dog’s nervous system tends to relax with food by doing away with social resistance. While we think of our pets as domesticated, their instincts are in fact wild and have to be calmed.

To see if the dog’s drive flows your way, go for a walk with him on his lead. Once he snorts around and pulls for a bit, try getting his attention by whistling. Give him a treat after he comes to you. There are no commands involved; you’re teaching him to become attracted to you while you’re forming group instinct.

The purpose of food is to mobilize his drive. The drive is brought to the surface while relaxing him so that he will act as well as learn freely. Over time, the dog’s sense of vulnerability becomes more relaxed, and he’ll have an easy focus as his initial step in learning a harder exercise.

Once your pet has a meal or snack, his drive will flow, and the enthusiasm will build. Slowly, as he gains confidence in his drive and the work with you builds, food will become just a small part of his effort. Once your dog has confidence, you can use your body language along with praising him verbally to give him a greater sense of his role within the group. The drive flow ultimately will be the reward itself, and some dogs may even lose interest in the food. The reward of being in good spirits and working within a group becomes more exciting to the pets.

All dogs keep themselves in a protective bubble because their nature is actually wild. This is what produces flight and social distances. The friendliest of dogs are even sensitive to that force. So when they feel violated they “vibrate” intensely, you see this in rump and tail wagging, grinning and anxious head motions.


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