The term “cue” rather than “command” is used in this blog post. This is because if the dog is given a “cue” then she makes a choice; she is not forced to follow a “command”.
Have a goal in mind. Work towards that goal. Be adaptable.
The dog should be enthusiastic which shows you she is having fun.
You will make mistakes in the training session. Learn from them and move on.
Give the dog time to work it out before you intervene but don’t let her get stuck.
No verbal cue is given at the beginning of the training. She does not speak English so it would be confusing if she were given an untrained verbal cue.
“Good girl” is used as positive feedback.
Keep training sessions short. Five minutes is a good ballpark figure. If the dog starts to get bored or frustrated then end the session sooner.
These videos are raw and unedited so you see the real training in real time.
Training sessions of a dog learning to go into a crate
Have a comfy bed in the crate.
The crate should be a positive place to be so don’t force her into it.
Throw a treat into the crate. Let her get it and come out again if she wants to.
Don’t stand in front of the door or you may be blocking her.
Don’t stand too far away from the crate since this may make it more difficult for her.
It may help to place the treat near the back of the crate to encourage her in.
Note at 3:32 she gets fully into the crate for the first time so she receives feedback of “good girl” for this success.
When the dog stays in the crate keep dropping treats in to maintain this behaviour.
You may need to call her out of the crate so she can then practice going back in again.
Notice how her enthusiasm builds as the session progresses.
The session is ended with “OK”.
Give the dog a break between sessions.
You may need to go back a step or two when starting a new session but you should now get quicker progress.
Note at 0:39 she gets fully into the crate. In the first session she did not do this until 3:32.
Note at 0:54 I pretend to throw the treat into the crate. She is then given the treat after going into the crate. This is the transition from the treat being used as a lure to the treat being a consequence of the behaviour.
The visual cue (hand signal) to go into the crate is me pointing at the crate.
The verbal cue of “house” is then added as she enters the crate.
Distance is now added with me being further away when the visual cue is given.
The visual cue for “down” is now added.
Variation is now added with the me being in different parts of the room when the visual or verbal cue is given.
Many people just put their dog’s food in their bowl. This is a wasted opportunity for enrichment!
Why should you feed your dog using the enrichment method?
Your dog’s food provides a simple but effective opportunity to provide some mental stimulation. This is particularly important for active dogs.
Using enrichment methods of feeding has the added bonus of slowing down your dog whilst they are eating. This is useful for dogs that ‘wolf’ down their food.
What feeding methods can I use for enrichment?
Don’t skimp on dog food quality just because you are feeding for enrichment. Check out my blog post on food choices.
Feeding dry dog food for enrichment
Dry dog food can be scattered, hidden, or placed in toys for enrichment.
Scatter feeding your dog for enrichment
This is the simplest method of feeding if you are short of time. This takes no more time than putting food in your dog’s bowl.
Get a handful of kibble and throw it out on the kitchen floor.
Once your dog gets the hang of this you could throw it out on to the garden patio. For a greater challenge throw it out on to the lawn.
You may wish to consider using a smaller size kibble so there is more to find.
Hiding your dog’s food for enrichment
This uses your dog’s sense of smell to find the food. This is an excellent choice since searching for food is a very natural behaviour for your dog. Your dog has a large area of his brain that is dedicated to scent detection for this purpose.
Put your dog away and then place individual bits of kibble around the kitchen. Let your dog in to find the kibble.
Once your dog gets the hang of this you could hide the food under or behind things. Just be careful that your dog is not going to knock something valuable over to get to the food! You can progress this by hiding your dog’s kibble in the garden.
You may want to consider using a smaller size kibble so there is more to find.
Using dog food toys for enrichment
There are many enrichment toys on the market that you can put your dog’s dry food inside. These are some of our favourites.
Kong Wobblers are a great toy for active dogs who enjoy working for their food.
You simply unscrew the base and put the kibble inside.
The toy has a hole in the top so that when the dog knocks the toy then food drops out.
Snuffle Mats are fleece feeding mats that are excellent for dogs that enjoy using their nose to search out or ‘snuffle’ for the food.
Just hide bits of kibble within the strands of the mat.
You dog doesn’t need a lot of space to use this enrichment feeding method.
Feeding wet dog food for enrichment
Using dog food toys for enrichment
There are many enrichment toys on the market that you can use with your dog’s wet food. These are some popular choices.
The classic Kong toy has been around since the 70s and is still one of the best products on the market.
They are available in sizes suiting very small to very large dogs.
The basic idea is you put food inside the Kong and then the dog licks the contents out.
You could just stuff the Kong with your dog’s wet dog food or alternatively add in a few bits of dry kibble for some extra crunch.
Dogs that find it too easy to empty a Kong may find one that has been frozen more challenging.
You could also smear a small quantity of some appetising food around the inside of the Kong. Popular choices are peanut butter, Marmite, cream cheese, or pate.
The healthy option is to blend some fruit or vegetables then freeze the Kong so your dog get a fun ice lolly!