Working for a Living in Dog Training

Is Your Dog Bored at Dinner?

So I’ve done it, I have gone and crossed over into the dark side; I entered a competition with my dog Fury the other day!

Now, you first need to understand ME to understand my thinking and why this is extraordinary and a problem for me.

I am clearly not normal.  I hate competition.  Hate may not be a strong enough word; I loathe competition!

I vividly remember being in kindergarten and running my first “real” race.  Apparently I was “super fast” for my age because I was going to cross the line first (this is not a trait that lasted for me) but I hesitated, slowed down and looked back for my friends.  There was a part of me that didn’t want to cross first.

That trait stuck.  Whenever I talk about competing I always share how much I loathe it.  Some of you must wonder; if I despise it so much WHY do I do it?  Because competition bonds me to my dog!

Even though I hated it and I still hate it some of the best times I had were spent training for competitions with my former dog “Mr. Snitch”.  Not necessarily competing, although I have some great memories of our competitions together as well, the training was spectacular time spent together.   We enjoyed every moment of it together because, of course, I worked him with positive reinforcement training and in drive.

I never cared whether he won the biggest blue ribbon, whether we barely passed or the few times we didn’t even qualify!

I wanted the same relationship with my 18 month old Dutch Shepherd.  I went through some major depression after my father died and then Mr. Snitch died of cancer and my Nix was then diagnosed with meningitis.  Fury, the little beast, was unintentionally put on the back burner.

Recently I have been spending an incredible amount of time working with her and shooting some videos and our bond has certainly strengthened.  And, a few weeks ago when I was at a client’s house working with his biting puppy, I recommended that he work his puppy for each of his meals.

Take Your Dog to Dinner…by Working on Obedience Together of Course!

A lot of times I hear people gasp when I recommend this, like working for his or her food is a despicable idea!  And, I tell my clients it’s like taking your kid to dinner and enjoying his or her company versus tossing his bowl on the table and making him eat alone.

Really how often do you “interact” with your dog while he is eating?  Most of the time the bowl barely touches the floor before the food is gobbled up and gone, ready to be filled yet again at another meal time.

If you work with your dog while you feed him his meal, you are actually interacting with him and that lessens the treats and fatty foods you are giving him while you train.

As long as you are using positive reinforcement, games, drive and fun this is a win-win situation whether you have a Lab puppy, a German Shepherd puppy or a Golden puppy!

I almost always recommend this type of training if you have a dog that is food aggressive, because this gives you all the control and makes your dog realize that food actually comes from YOU and so he should listen to you and respect you.

But I got to thinking…why not incorporate this into my already busy training regimen?  Now that we have our eye on the prize (or at least some basic goals together) I have been working with her “highness” several times per day.

We go outside and work 5-20 minutes a few times a day but I have also started putting her food in my pocket and having her do some basic stuff for it.  This isn’t as barbaric as it sounds and I guarantee if you were to ask her, her opinion she would much rather play games and interact with me than eat alone from a cold sterile bowl.

She has a great time working with me for her food, and sometimes, when the day is busy this helps me ensure we are getting at least 2 good training sessions in for the day.

You don’t have to make your dog work for every piece of kibble.  I often jackpot and give her a handful of food so that she is satiated!

How to Implement This Training Schedule

  • Decide what you want to work on before starting!  Does your dog need help with his basic obedience?  Does he come when called?  Do you want to do more challenging advanced obedience?  Or would you like to teach him some tricks?
  • I don’t care what you work even a multitude of the things above on as long as you are working and spending time together!
  • This requires meal feeding, I don’t like free feeding dogs anyway!
  • Measure the regular food you are giving your dog and put it into a bag, a tool belt or a fanny pack.
  • Get your clicker
  • Begin working on whatever skill you desire.
  • Don’t just have your dog do ONE thing like laying down and waiting to be fed.  Interact with him and make it fun!
  • Utilize lots of jackpots to keep it fun and keep your dog motivated.

    Work Together! You’ll be Happy You Did!

  • Calling your dog:  I back up and call my dogs to come; when they sit in front of me I feed them.   I may even dash into another room while calling my dogs to come, then having them sit in front.
  • Have your dog find heel position.
  • Work on sit and/or down stays.
  • Train them how to come when you call
  • Teach your dog to shake.
  • Or, take your dog outside and work on more advanced obedience.  I am working on out of motion down stays, so I toss some food down in the grass as I tell her to down.
  • Most importantly HAVE FUN TOGETHER!

This is all about bonding with your dog and working on your obedience together.  Using their food simply give you a set time and an outlet and keeps your dog a bit slimmer than using treats!  You will see your bond deepen and your dog listen to you more readily just by implementing this simple plan.

So make a pledge to your dog to “go out to dinner” together if not once or twice a day at least 3 times a week!  And you will see his obedience and commitment shine!

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  1. gerry says:

    I have a pure breed lhasa apso, he’s 4moths old. I love my dog soo much, I need to know what to feed him and what games can I teach him


    Minette Reply:

    He needs a high quality puppy food and I would begin with just some basic obedience like teaching him to sit and then wait for his food to be put down on the floor before he can eat.

    Then read and search through this blog and you will find many game ideas! Games are MY and my dog’s FAVORITE things!!


  2. emil says:

    Great suggestion. Recently I began Sit Stay before every meal with 8 month old Golden Retriever. Then hid the food and standing by it away from the dog, called “Okay, Mo Come”. He comes immediately and learned Sit Stay in a few days.

    He often would not come inside when called and I did the same, Sit Stay outside and “Okay, Mo Come” at feeding time. He now comes into the house most of the time when called.

    No free lunches.


  3. Candy Clark says:

    We play a game in the morning.
    I feed raw and in their crates so they don’t try to steal from each other, but they have to open their crates, sit and wait after I give them their food for me to give them an OK. Then when they are done I make them sit/stay while I drop bits of banana in one of my rooms, hiding some of the pieces. Then I say “find it” and the search is on. My spaniel loses out to my beagle most of the time because he looks for the food with his eyes and my beagle “looks” with her nose. It is their favorite time of day. I will get a new game for their night feeding.

    You have inspired me.


    Minette Reply:

    Good job!


  4. Paul says:

    I have a 2 1/2 yr old golden, She is a fantastic dog!
    She is extremely well behaved when on a leash. Extremely well behaved in the house. Comes when called sits, lies down, Heels stops when told to stop.
    BUT sometimes outside OFF a leash like in the yard she goes off into La La land and acts like she is deaf and blind to anything I say, UNTIL I walk over to her and stomp my foot, then all of a sudden she is back in the world again and wants to please. This OFF in La La Land, usually happens when she finds something GOOD to Sniff.
    Any Ideas? I don’t want to yell at her and Stomp my foot!
    Paul in Alabama


    Minette Reply:

    I would set this up as a training experiment with a long line and some really great treats or a great game. Remember you have to be more exciting than whatever she is sniffing…you don’t want to be more intimidating, just more exciting! So you must find a way to do that and I would strengthen my recall command!

    Also understand that sometimes dogs need to sniff and make sure she is getting that fun for her brain time, but YES they must come to you whenever you call them!

    Read this article too!


  5. Miguel says:

    How Can i get my 12 week old puppies not to poop or pee In the house ?


    Kalohoa Miller Reply:

    Take your pupppy out about 5-10 minutes after is done eating and
    I alway say let’s go potty. When the dog does go potty I reward with a very special treat (I use Stella and Chewy’s freeze dried meat and I only use that for potty trainig until they get it down as a regular thing. Then use the same treats for other t raining issues. I found that going out with my puppy when it needed to go potty and treating immediately worked great.


    Robbin Reply:

    set up a routine and take the pup out as soon as you wake up, feed the pup breakfast, take the pup out again until it goes. praise the pup. If you get on a routine, you will see a huge difference. Dogs need routine. 12 weeks is very young so expect a few mishaps/ I usually get up at 5 for young pups or at least as soon as she/he cries. Then make that the time each day. If he/she cried at 6, make that your time each day. You dictate when he/she will get up and go do not wait for him./her. You will avoid a lot of cleaning. You can also crate train. Dogs usually, unless it is an emergency, do not mess their living space (crate in this case). You sill have to let the pup out at the same time each morning and then after they eat, Several times each day while they are young. Same routine at dinner and before bed. Your routine will help but you have to stick to it. They have tiny bladders while they are growing. They cannot help that. A crate will help them learn to hold it but while young,f you wait too long, they may fet out and just let go. Don’t be too long in between intervals. Reward them when they go into the crate and every time they go pee. They will get it quickly and like the crate too.


  6. Eileen says:

    This technique worked so well that my dog now asks for permission before getting on the couch, even though she knows she is allowed on it.


    Minette Reply:

    Excellent! See how intelligent your dog is and how much she likes learning!!


  7. Beth Moore says:

    I have heard you refer many times to the advantages of using a clicker. This technique is something I am unfamiliar with ….. I presume it is a clicking device of some sort; where do you get it; how do you use it?
    Thank you.


    Eli Reply:

    I bought my clicker at PETCO with a little cord and clip on the end. I also bought a feed bag that clips to my belt. When my 4 month old Jack Russell terrier mix sees me put the bag on, he is all business! He sits alert with one ear raised. Every time you click the dog gets a treat ( even on accident ) . He now knows sit, lie down, crawl, paw, stand up, roll over, play dead, come, go pee and fetch. We’re working on the same effectiveness without the treats, but he’s a puppy so I think that will come with time. Next trick is to hit a target with his paw and stay.
    I highly recommend the clicker bag combo


    Minette Reply:

    The clicker is a marker. You condition it by pairing it with food to tell the dog that he has done something right.

    Dogs learn much quicker with the clicker or a like marker. This is how they train dolphins and whales, with a marker.

    You can get one at your local pet supply store, Petsmart Petco or even online by searching for a “dog clicker” or clicker training.

    Check out this article for more information!


  8. Elisabeth says:

    I have a pur bread pit bull named renezmae she is 1 years old,but the only thing she knows how to do is sit and most of the time she wont even do that!! I cannot afford a clicker…so i need some suggestions before my mom desides to get rid of her for something that is nor renezmaes fault, but mine!!


    thank you for your time! ~ elisabeth and renezmae


    Minette Reply:

    Keep her on a leash and keep her with you.

    Also provide her with lots of things of her own to chew on!! She obviously needs to chew.

    She also needs a lot of exercise so tire her out by taking her running or attach her to your bike and run her till she is exhausted. A tired dog doesn’t get into trouble 😉

    Also look through this blog. There is a search bar in the upper left hand corner and you can put in a search “chewing” “leash” …whatever you are looking for and read more articles that can help!

    Keep training with her, you don’t NEED a clicker but you do need to train and work with her several times a day to see improvement!


    jeannie Reply:

    If you can click your tongue against the roof of your mouth (I learned to do this with horses, actually) you don’t need to purchase a clicker. If you want to talk WHILE you’re clicking, for the extra reinforcement, then yes, you might want one, but it isn’t necessary even to do clicker training.
    I would add to your lovely response that teaching which things are good chews and which are bad chews is just another learning opportunity, and if your dog is crate trained the dog will not be eating and destroying your house while you are otherwise occupied. The first thing that should be introduced into a puppy’s experience is a safe crate experience, rewarded with treats and stocked with safe chew toys.
    I have seven dogs, including two pit bulls and a 15mo puppy – crate training is why I still have a house. Now only three of the dogs continue to use crates, but the others have been trained to go to “place” and stay and are reliable. I couldn’t have accomplished that without crate training at the start.
    I have to say though, if you can’t afford a clicker you can’t afford to vet and feed and care for a dog. It’s a $2 item and dogs need a real commitment.


    Elisabeth Reply:

    I cant afford the clicker but my parents do pay for food and shots 🙂 but i am only 183 so it is harder to make money at my age i love renezmae to death and i dont ever want her to leave me therefore i thank all of you for your responces this has been VERY informative i can make the clicker thing work, some how lol but i can definately make for time for my baby girl, she needs the love and attention besides thanks to you guys i can work with her and get her to stop chewing 🙂 thank you

    ~from elisabeth and renezmae

    Robbin Reply:


    I have three dogs that I recently started using the clicker with, Since I often forget to bring it with me on our walks, I use a clicking sound with my mouth and that works just as well. If you ask your girl to sit and she does, make the sound and tell her good girl and treat her. Everytime she does what you ask, click with your mouth and treat her. She will catch on quickly and the need for a clicker will be eliminated. You just have to make the same clicking sound each time so she gets the connection, when I do what I am asked, I get a click and a treat. ALso, I never had a chewing problem with any dogs because as suggested, I walk them a long way each day. This creates a bond, helps then train and get used to socializing with dogs and people and tires them out so they are not bored and chew to get rid of excess energy. Try to walk on a routine. It can be different places but around the same time daily is better. Your dog, does know what time it is, they are amazing that way. Use the same words when you do stuff like ready for dinner or ready to walk or lets go night night when it is bed time. Of course, you use your words, just use the same phrases to let them get in those routines too, helps with using the mind and tiring them out because they are working. Show your mom how great you are doing and how great your girl is doing and she will believe in both of you. It is your responsibility to work your dog every single day and when she gets passed her puppy stage, she will be so easy to have as your buddy. Puppys are work but it is so worth it, Dogs are the best friends, and you will be proud of both of you


  9. Pat Rosell says:

    I really need help with my one-year old Yellow lab mix. He is very, very strong, yet sweet and loving.
    I really need training. Main problem is: How can I keep him from wanting to grab everything in sight when he’s out of his crate? I want so much to have him un-crated, and relaxing with me! Please help us!


    Minette Reply:

    Keep him on a leash or tie down with you! Until he can acclimate and not grab at everything in sight he can’t have full access to the house!

    When I get new dogs I always put them on a leash and take them with me so my things and my other pets are safe and so that they learn manners. You won’t let him grab things if he is on a leash 😉 so he learns very quickly there is no fun in stealing!


    jeannie Reply:

    Teach the “leave it” command – first on leash, walking directly past trouble objects, with rewards for the correct response. Then with direct supervision off leash, same command. I also use “bad chew” and then substitute the “good chew” with praise for choosing the offered chew toy instead.
    But part of the process along the way will involve letting the dog know which are the non-chew toys, and that means you have to (with direct supervision) go to the wrong things sometimes and then intervene. This isn’t them being a problem, it’s just training.


  10. Jude LeMoine says:

    Great ideas! You can start with a very young puppy. Learning is so easy for them then and training becomes so much easier for both of you. And I agree… who wants to eat alone!


  11. Sally Negri says:

    I have a Weimy…she loves to be near but can’t seem to keep her paws down. I’ve tried ignoring her but she starts to nip me on my bottom, she whines or noses me (it’s a cold nose) What can I do to stop this behavior?


  12. Audrey says:

    I have a 3.5 yr old English Bulldog I adopted about 2 months ago. She is not food aggressive towards AT ALL me or other people, but is towards other dogs.
    She doesn’t know any obedience so I’ve been trying to work on “sit” (very hard to get a bulldog to sit due to their build!) and also make her “wait” until I tell her to eat.

    How do you stop the aggression towards other dogs?


  13. Lin says:

    I am so happy to hear this, as I have always used this method to teach my dogs new commands, ( I have 4 ), German Shepherd, Husky/GS, cocker spaniel & ( don’t laugh) Dachs/Staffie!

    Teaching them the WAIT, Heel etc using this method at meal times has been very rewarding.


  14. I have brought home a very young Sheltie, she is only 8 wks.So far qwe have the follow me down and beleive it or not she sits when she is called. I treat her then but have a clicker I don’t fully understand how to use. Do you come to the point where the clicker replaces a treat? MY puppy also whines in the big crate, but I have provided axtra blanketing to calm her and it seems to be working. She has a smALLER crate that she sleeps in next to my bed, or really rather on the bed with me. I take her out at 300 aaaam, or when she asks to go, and againwhen she gets up before breakfast.Problem???Wants to claw at the door and not be quiet in the cage at night.neither of us is getting much sleep and I take into consideration that she is so young.


    Minette Reply:

    Read these two articles about clicker training to give you more of an idea. The clicker is the conditioned reinforcer and eventually you condition the behavior and no longer need the clicker or the food very often, although I still believe in reinforcing good behaviors to keep them stronger.

    As far as the crating, try putting the crate on the floor. She might fuss because she can see you and would rather be in bed with you!

    Also, exercise, exercise, exercise about 30 minutes to an hour before bed…let her run around and play rocket dog and tickle and poke before bed so when she goes into her crate she is too tired to do anything else but sleep!


  15. David says:

    A couple of things which may help: our 8 month Kelpie pup loves pulling and disassembling an old knotted sock Also we didnt want to buy a clicker so we use the top of a jam jar with the re-usable self sealing lid with a small dome which “pops” when the jam or preserves are cooled and sealed (after you have bottled the preserves.)
    The small dome when pushes emits a satisfying “click” or “.pop “


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