Monday, July 12, 2010

Think Outisde The Bowl!

I recently had a discussion with a friend about using food in training and/or behavior modification without adding extra pounds to our dogs waistline. Whether we're teaching new obedience skills, redirecting behaviors, training in public or using frozen kongs/bones for recreational chewing, calories can add up quickly. The average dog LOVES food and will rarely turn down the opportunity to eat so it's our job to manage those calories. If your dog is currently in training and you're using food rewards it's immportant to keep track of how much food they're eating each day. I start by measuring out their daily amount of dry kibble and placing it into a zip lock bag each morning. If you're doing alot of training and want to use special treats you can withhold a small portion of their daily food to account for those added calories. Adult dogs and puppies need a balanced diet so do not replace too much of their food with high fat or empty calorie treats. It's easy to overfeed so monitoring daily calories is important. By premeasuring food you'll be able to keep track of eactly how much food your dog is eating each day.

Keep in mind that there is no rule that says your dog has to eat all their food out of their bowl. You can divide it and dispense it a number of ways.

Place it in food dispensing toys
In the morning while you're getting ready for work, place your dogs breakfast into a food dispensing toy such as a Tug-A-Jug, Kibble Nibble or Fayes favorite The Tornado!

Feed them out of your treat bag during training sessions or on walks
You can pour some of their meal into your treatbag and use it for training or feed them breakfast/dinner while you walk them.

Hand Feeding, especially for puppies
Hand feed your dog their kibble a few pieces at a time, especially helpful for puppies to prevent any food bowl/resource guarding issues.

Not only can we use these techniques during training but they can be especially helpful for a dog recovering from illness, injury or surgery. Tomorrow Faye is going to be spayed and she will be restricted from her normal exercise routine for 10-14 days. During her recovery she will be eating meals out of her Tornado or Tug-A-Jug.   The only outdoor exercise she can have is leash walks so she'll be eating many of her meals on the go as we walk. We will also take this time to learn a few new obedience skills or tricks.

So when it comes to feeding your dog, Think Outside The Bowl, the possibilities are endless!!

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