By Raina Townson
Instead of letting your pup inhale their meal without a second thought, you can take this great opportunity to turn their breakfast, lunch, and dinner into a stimulating learning and enrichment experience.
You will most likely have a hungry dog on your hands if they have not already eaten their meal. This increases their motivation to work and learn. Hand feeding your dog and allowing them to work for rewards builds their bond with you and teaches them that doing the right thing equals rewards such as food.
You can use their kibble to teach them a new skill or to work on skills they may already know and need more practice with such as sit, down, heel, and focus- just to name a few. By hand feeding your puppy during these meal time training sessions, you are developing puppy and handler engagement. Handler engagement is so important because it allows food as a primary reinforcer to be paired with you as a secondary reinforcer and in time, you will become a primary reinforcer. On top of that, they are also learning to have a positive association with people around their food bowl which is important in avoiding resource guarding.
Remember to keep sessions fairly short and sweet for puppies so that they stay engaged and don’t get bored or frustrated. Leftover kibble can even be used throughout the day. If you catch your puppy making good decisions such as laying down calmly, pay them with kibble!
Using meal time as a training opportunity is a win all around!