Because my puppy will be raw fed, hand feeding can get a little disgusting. The cost: benefit analysis definitely lends me to conclude that hand feeding is well worth the effort and grossness.
Why would I give my puppy treats and food for free when I could use it to communicate to him what I think is wonderful about his behavior? Hand feeding will allow me virtually unlimited opportunities to practice training. I will be using both Mokie and the new puppy’s rations to reinforce them for prosocial behavior toward each other – I am not naive enough to believe that this transition will be entirely without stress for both dogs and can use food to ease the transition while improving my relationship with both of my dogs and their relationship with each other.
I can use my new puppy’s daily rations to teach him how to use his mouth politely, that new people and animals are friends, not foes, and to work on resource guarding prevention exercises with him. (I’ll trade you this turkey leg for that one, puppy!) I can use it to teach him to love his crate, grooming, swimming, and the veterinarian’s office. I can use it to teach him that pulling on the leash never pays off and that walking politely on the leash frequently does. I can use it to teach basic behaviors as well as fun tricks. I can use it to teach him to go over an A-frame or through a tunnel in puppygility class. I can use it to teach him to keep his paws on the ground when greeting people or another dog. I can use it to teach him how to toilet appropriately, what’s safe to chew on and what is not, how to bring back a ball that I throw for him.
Most importantly, the benefit that I will get from using food in this fashion is that I will encourage creativity in my dog. From a very young age, he will learn to experiment vigorously to find new ways to make me smile and thus, click and treat. Dogs that get rewarded when they do good things tend to do lots of good things – it’s the nature of reinforcement. Doing lots of early shaping sessions should get the “offering behaviors” neurons firing rapidly in his quickly developing brain, and this investment will bring huge dividends in training sessions throughout his life.
Much of the food he does not receive directly from my hand, he will receive from food dispensing toys. We have a variety of great food dispensing toys all ready for him, including Kongs, a variety of Nina Ottosson toys, Manners Minder, Tug a Jugs and Buster Cubes (these work for kibble only, so are great for the rare kibble meal), Kong Wobbler, and a Kibble Nibble, in addition to some great Orbee Treat Spot toys. He can earn access to these great toys through his own good behavior.
Establishing a “learn to earn” program in this manners will teach my dog that mom and dad have lots of fun and yummy stuff, and that his own behavior is the key which unlocks these treasures. It is a fantastic way to build my dog’s confidence in me and himself. When you put your dog’s food to work for you, you create a dog which is happy to work with you. Isn’t that what we all want, as pet parents?
Featured Image Credit: Voyagerix, Shutterstock