The easiest, scientifically endorsed methods to train and socialize your dog involve food. If we couldn’t go to the grocery store and bring home bags of groceries, we would be asking, “Who’s got the food? What can I do for the people who have the food?” Use your dog’s ration of food calories to train basic skills and to help your dog overcome socialization difficulties. Food can be used as a reward, to enhance emotional connections and dispel fear. It can effectively focus, redirect, distract and calm a hyperactive, fearful or noise-phobic dog, and safely treat all types of aggression.
Dogs are born scavengers. Setting up grazing opportunities gives your dog a dog-job he likes that keeps him out of trouble.
Here are some of my favorite Grazing Games™:
Scatter breakfast and/or dinner. No need to feed from a bowl. That’s something humans, not dogs, like to do. Your dog will find every last piece of premium-quality kibble you’ve thrown out on the patio, walkway or lawn while you read the newspaper and have your coffee.
Use food to change emotions. Desensitize fear of the car, location, noise, person or other dog by scattering high-value food paired with a low-intensity version of the feared stimulus.
Calm Greetings. Toss treats out the sliding glass door into a secured yard each time the doorbell rings. Alternatively, when you or a guest arrives at your home, toss treats to your dog in an arc to calm, distract and slow him down. Now you can get a proper Sit or Four on the Floor by the time he finally gets there. Reward the Sit with a high-value treat or affection.
Separation anxiety/housetraining. Pet parents often mistake a separation anxiety issue for a housetraining problem. If you suspect your dog may be afraid to go outside without you, scatter kibble for grazing in the yard — just not on the elimination area.
Housetraining accidents. Scatter treats over thoroughly cleaned urination and defection areas. Dogs don’t like to eliminate where they eat.
Crate training. Scatter food over the floor of the crate to diffuse fearfulness.
Environmental enhancement. Grazing makes almost any environment feel safer and interesting.
Animal behavior icons from B.F. Skinner to Pavlov and progressive zoos worldwide control very large and potentially dangerous animals by using the power of food judiciously and wisely. Your dog is easy by comparison!
Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email:LindaMichaelsPositively@gmail.com for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at DogPsychologistOnCall.com
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