Food is just so very useful! You can use it to…
…figure out how stressed your dog is
If the dog is refusing food they are probably quite stressed! Get out of that situation and rethink your options! (Tip: can you increase the distance from the trigger, lower its intensity or shorten the exposure time?)
…calm them down
Sniffing for food is as natural an activity as it gets (dogs are scavengers first and hunters by necessity!). It provides information about the environment and has an overall calming effect on dogs. Looking for treats also helps them boost their confidence, they find them all on their own 🙂 If your dog is new to this, remember to start with larger, more smelly treats.
If your dog is too nervous to sniff, you can try giving them a chew toy. Chewing also calms them down.
…wear them out
Once again: sniffing for treats. Set up puzzles for your dog: put the food between dry leaves or in tall grass, smear it on stones or a tree trunk… Let them figure it out! You can also use various surfaces like large stones or fallen trees to provide some natural balancing exercises for them.
…reward good behaviors
Most dogs like to eat (and if they seem healthy but don’t like to eat, you might want to see a vet about it). When it comes to variety, sky is the limit for food AND you can chop it up as small or as large as you need it. That’s why food is the most practical reward in many situations.
…strengthen your relationship
Find out what are your dog’s favourite foods and treat them from time to time, not just when you’re training.
…create positive associations
For reasons described above, food is usually the reinforcer of choice for situations when we want to change how the dog feels about something (counter-conditioning). Remember, the dog chooses what works for them in a given situation!
…keep the dog in one place
Do you ever worry about finding poop and keeping an eye on your dog at the same time? Just throw them a couple of treats, that will keep them occupied while you play poop detective.
…distract the dog
Do you see a weird person approaching? Or maybe there is a dog coming and you can’t cross the street? There is nothing wrong with distracting your dog when you can’t train or manage the situation differently.
…get rid of “friendly” dogs
While you should not feed other people’s dogs without their permission, sometimes you can make an exception. Unfortunately, many owners don’t care that your dog might not want contact with Fido and throwing a handful of treats may just be enough to make Fido stop before they reach your dog.
…keep the dogs occupied in the car
Who eats, doesn’t bark! If the dog barks at stuff outside (and doesn’t have motion sickness) giving them a Kong or a lickymat for the duration of the ride can save your ears. Darkening the windows or installing a box might also be helpful for you.
Originally posted by Donau Dogs.