What is the best way dogs learn things? Well, one would say by playing. Obedience training, positive reinforcement training, conditional training, and balanced training, are all great. But unless you make things fun for your puppy, things will not go as smoothly as you want them to.
Today, we will talk about some games you can play with dog food. You can use these puppy games to feed your puppy and learn new things in the process.
For these activities to be successful, you hand should feed your pet.
The Benefits of Hand Feeding
One of the biggest benefits of hand feeding is that you get an easy way to get your dog focused on you. That extra focus will make any training and working with your pet much easier and smoother. Hand feeding also helps with improving impulse control and establishing good manners in your dog.
When people think of hand feeding, they think only of the benefits of training. But it is also a good technique for shy and fearful dogs. And it is one of the best ways to slow down eating. If you have a fast eater, you can control the pace by hand feeding. Remember, when your puppy swallows kibble like crazy, he is more prone to gastrointestinal problems like bloating and gasses.
Here is a quick summary of the benefits of hand feeding your dog:
– Improves impulse control and helps your puppy focus on you
– Builds a strong bond and relationship between you and your puppy
– Slows down quick eaters and prevents gastrointestinal problems in the process
– Builds trust in your puppy, especially in shy and fearful dogs
– Helps with training bite inhibition in dogs
Why should you play games with food?
As you will see later on, most of the dog games involving food are actually nose work games for dogs. These games allow your puppy to use its natural talent, sniffing, in a fun and entertaining way. We know dogs have 10,000 times more powerful sense of smell than visual sense.
So, using your dog’s natural instinct to sniff is a great way to add some mental stimulation to your daily routine, give your dog a job and task to do, and improve and build his confidence.
But most importantly, games are a fun way to learn new things and build a bond and relationship between you and your dog.
You know the saying, a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. And these games can help you tire your dog out physically and mentally.
Top 5 Dog Food Games That Help with Training
Go Get the Treat
This is a fun game that helps improve your recall. But that is only one benefit to it. The other important benefit is that it teaches your dog that good things, such as kibble, dog food, and dog treats, come from you, not from the ground.
The game reinforces recall and helps your puppy understand that it needs to come to you for a reward. You can play the game anywhere, but we suggest starting in a closed environment with no distractions.
1 Start with your dog sitting comfortably next to you
2 Throw a kibble or a dog treat away and instruct your dog to go and get it. Start with little distance and then gradually increase the distance
3 Once your dog gets the kibble, call it
4 When your puppy comes back to you, give him a huge reward, which in this case is lots of kibble or high-value treats
What is the idea of the game? Well, your dog learns that he can always get things away from you, but the really good stuff, the jackpot if you like, comes when he comes back to you. Good things happen when your puppy is next to you.
Find the Treat
The next game also involves kibble and treat. This one helps with mental stimulation and encourages your dog to use its nose in a fun way. Basically, turn your dog into a sniffing machine.
It is quite simple, and you can increase the level/challenge/difficulty gradually.
1 Start by calling your dog next to you and putting it into a sit/stay position
2 Hide a treat somewhere in the house and then tell your dog to find it
3 You can guide your dog with words like “hot” and “cold”. Do not worry, your puppy will pick up the meaning of the words
If you like to make things extra fun, get a plastic container, make some holes on the lid, and start playing. Fill the container with kibble, hide it somewhere in the home, and ask your dog to go and find its dinner.
Sit and Wait
This is a game you can play to improve your dog’s focus on you. It helps you improve your leadership role in the home. Ask any professional dog trainer or a dog owner. The most important thing you want to achieve in dog training is your dog focusing on you.
This indoor game can help you with that. Once your dog masters the game, you can take it outside and add some distractions and increase the difficulty.
1 Have your dog sit in the middle of the living room
2 Give the command stay and repeat sit if needed
3 As your repeat the command sit, walk in circles around your puppy clockwise and anti-clockwise
4 In the beginning, reward your dog for one circle. Then, increase it to two circles, three circles, and so on
Tip: to have your puppy focused on you in the beginning, hold a treat or kibble. But gradually phase out the treats so that your dog learns to focus on you even when you do not have food for bribing.
Repeat basic commands
This is one of the best ways you can use dog food. What I mean by that is you give your dog a job to do. Nothing comes free and nothing comes easy. That is a lesson you want your puppy to learn. It will instantly make a change in your dog’s behavior.
Your dog has to work for food. If you make your puppy work for food, he will love food even more, and be willing to spend more time with you.
1 Call your dog
2 Give your puppy its dinner by repeating basic commands like sit, lie down, give paw, high five, left paw, roll over, right paw, and so on
3 Reward each successful command with dog food
4 Take things to the next level by making a sequence and rewarding your dog with lots of kibble for successfully completing the sequence
We said in the beginning that many dog games involving food can improve your puppy’s impulse control. Why is impulse control so important? Well, because it teaches your dog to be calm, confident, and relaxed in the home and outside. Most importantly, impulse control helps you teach your dog to focus on you, follow you outside, and wait for your permission to do things.
We can play a couple of games to improve your dog’s impulse control.
1 For the first game, place a treat in one hand and move it away from you. Wait for your puppy to look at you (eye contact), mark with “good job” and reward with a treat”. Always mark the moment your puppy looks at you
2 Play the second game by placing a treat in front of your puppy. Have your dog sit/stay, and do not let it eat it. Again, wait for eye contact, and then mark with “good job” and allow your puppy to eat the treat
3 The last game is mastering the art of doing nothing. Have your dog in a sit, stay, or down position and do nothing for a couple of seconds and then a couple of minutes. This game will teach your dog to chill while things are happening around you