How to Use Food to Get Your Dog to Do What You Want

How to Use Food to Get Your Dog to Do What You Want


For those of you with perfectly behaved dogs, feel free to move along and post a photo of your pet using the toilet/drinking a cup of tea/writing heartfelt thank you notes while the rest of us commiserate. We know that dogs love food and pet parents love good behavior, so we sat down with certified trainer Rachel Cohen Maso CPDT-KA, of Brooklyn Dogtime, to find out how to connect the two and reward our dogs for some brag-worthy behaviors. Here's how to motivate your pup with food if...

...your dog eats too fast.
Does your pup scarf down food faster than you can say dinner's ready? Try a puzzle bowl like this one to slow them down, which simultaneously gives them some entertainment and mental stimulation (while giving you a few moments to prepare your own dinner). Try a DIY version of a puzzle bowl by distributing your dog's food in a muffin tin, then topping each portion with a ball or toy that must be removed to get to the food.

...you want your dog to be occupied for longer than 10 minutes.
Freezing food and toys is a great way to slow things down as dogs lick and chew to help thaw the ice. If your pet eats wet food, freeze it in ice cube containers, then pop them out for savory, frosty treats. (For dry food, mix it with canned pumpkin, then do the same.) Peanut butter frozen inside a Kong toy? Dog's delight. Bonus: freezing introduces a new texture that is tougher and makes your dog use her teeth, which helps with tartar control.

...your dog still has too much energy after a long walk.
Take your dog to a nice, quiet place and practice recall exercises where they run around, then come back to your side when you give them a cue (and a treat.) Then, when you get home, help them settle that energy by practicing relaxed behaviors like "down" or "stay", reinforcing with a treat every time they comply. Think of this like a cool down after a workout, on a physical and emotional level.

...your dog jumps on houseguests when they arrive.
If you're starting with a puppy, turn your back and ignore them when they jump. Then show them what you do want by giving them a treat as soon as four feet are back on the floor. If you have an older dog who's been doing this a long time, the easiest solution is to get a baby gate and keep the dog behind it until the guests are settled and the dog is exhibiting calm behavior. Give them a treat before you let them out, then let them make their way to the guests if they choose.

...your dog freaks out when it's time to trim nails.
Begin by just getting out the nail clippers and giving the dog a treat. Put the nail clippers away. Put the treats away. You're teaching the dog a positive association before actually clipping. The process will move in tiny increments before you ever actually trim: next, approach the dog with the nail clippers, touch the dog with the nail clippers, and reinforce with a treat after every step. When you're ready to clip, it's helpful to have someone else with you to hold the dog and give them treats while you snip. After a successful trimming, reinforce with more treats and praise.

The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.

Tiffany Beveridge

Tiffany Beveridge

Writer, author, teacher, traveler, amateur kitchen wizard, wife, and mom to two sons, one imaginary daughter, and one neurotic but lovable Dachshund.

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