When Dan was a puppy, I used kibble from each meal for his training sessions. Sometimes we used up his whole meal this way, sometimes just a handful.
Lately, I have noticed that my current habit is to just dump his food in his bowl and move on to the next task in my morning/evening pet care routine. Dan eats in about 2 minutes and then is on to something else.
Recently, I decided I really should be doing a better job of using a meal to enrich Dan’s life. I am always telling my clients about toys like the Kong Wobbler or the Buster Cube and we have every version of these food delivery toys I could find. But I had been slacking on using them myself. So I started giving Dan one meal a day in a food puzzle toy. He LOVES it and it keeps him busy for at least 15 minutes, even with toys he has used many times.
Last week, I also got back on track with using his dinner for our evening training sessions.
How many pieces of kibble are in your dog’s meal? Naturally, the number of pieces varies with size of kibble and cups of food given. Dan’s kibble is sort of big – about the size of a small grape. And he gets one cup of food at each meal.
I decided to count the number of kibble in a cup, just out of curiosity. There were 134 pieces of kibble!
On Monday, I only used about half for training. We sat on the front porch, I read my book, and we practiced “check” as dogs walked by. Dan did wonderfully, a dog even barked at him and though he struggled with it, letting out a growl, he maintained his composure and relaxed. The same dog went the other direction a little later and he barely noticed! This is major improvement for Dan. Dogs on the other side of the street he just watched calmly, though alert, and when I asked him to “check” he looked at the dog and looked back at me! before I clicked. This is the first time that he has offered to look back at me on his own. I simply delayed the click a half a second and he just did it. Such a good boy. But this is due to our practice of this behavior over the last year – we have probably practiced “check” hundreds of times with many different dogs.
On Tuesday, I decided to just go for it and use all the kibble. I wanted to see how long it would take to use it up. We practiced loose leash walking in front of the house in addition to practicing “check” with passing dogs and other distractions. Do you have a guess at how long it might have taken us to use 134 pieces of kibble?
18 minutes. Yup. That means on average, Dan got a treat every 8 seconds. Now that’s a high rate of reinforcement!
If you had 134 treats to use in 18 minutes, what would you use them for? I challenge you to try to use your dog’s kibble for training at least a few times per week. It is an easy way to make it part of your day and your dog will LOVE the attention he gets during training.