Feeding your dog should be more than just filling up their bowl in an identical fashion every day. Depending on what you’re training goals are, you can accomplish multiple goals in different fashions simply by adjusting the way you feed your dog. Let me explain to you what is possible by changing breakfast today.
Firstly, I am a huge advocate for scheduled meals versus free feeding. FF comes with a few big problems such as obesity, lacking motivation, and removes all ability for impulse control to be applied. There is also a health concern of bloat, we will talk about that later.
If you do a scheduled breakfast and dinner, don’t go through the motions and put food in their dish and walk away. You’re wasting a very important opportunity for them to learn. At a minimum, I want you to practice having your dog stay on their dog bed throughout the preparation and placing down of the food. When you pick up their food scooper, they get excited, and that excitement is something they do not know how to control, because we have never practiced it. Let’s try Option 1 first.
Put your dog on leash (so you have control) and put them on their dog bed. Whatever command you are using for stay (stay, wait, place etc) give it, and walk to go get their dog dish. Throughout the process of preparing and giving, if your dog breaks, stay calm and pick up their leash, and restart the process. While it may take 10 minutes on the first day, that’s okay! It gets quicker quickly. Release your dog verbally to eat.
Option 2. When you have a dog who loves eating their food and gets excited around meal time, this can turn into an amazing training session. Instead of putting your dog’s food in the dish, put it in your pocket and go outside for a quick training session. Remember, your dog is hungry, and they know it’s feeding time, you are guaranteed to have their attention. Go outside and practice anything you want, preferably some eye contact, leash walking and following, and some recall games! By putting their food in your pocket or fanny pack, you have taken the power away from the dish and giving it to yourself.
Option 3, Scatter game. This is one simple, and super rewarding. Take your dog’s dish full of food, and scatter the food in the grass in the front/backyard. If your yard is fenced in let them go, if not, use a long line and sit and hang out. Scavenging for food is more than just feeding them, it’s fulfilling a need to search and find food.
Your last option is to use a feeding toy. There is multiple options for the “right toy”, all you have to do is find something that your dog enjoys, and use this as a mixup every now and again. This also makes for a great babysitter if you need 10 minutes.
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Go In The Room.
When it comes time, you need to walk calm into that room with your dog, and if you need someone to help come with you, call me. My entire life has been shaped by one single dog. He saved me, showed me how to love and gave me a purpose to my life. He was with me for every single one of my successes, and even more important he was with me for every single one of my failures, always right beside me. That is the way he went up to Heaven too, with me right by his side.
Trigger was 10.5 yers old when his time came up, and I had to make the hardest and easiest decisions entire life in the same day. Trigger was old, and his body just couldn’t keep up, and I was not going to let him suffer out of my selfishness. Making the decision to put your old dog down is heartbreaking. Even when you know it’s time, when you know it’s the right thing to do, it tears your soul apart. When it came time for his final day, guess where he was? Right by my side, doing the things we love one last time. Trigger and I went for a car ride to visit my farm, and see my dad. The old bear couldn’t walk, but you bet your ass he tried jumping out of the car to see my dad and run on the farm. We got to hang out, peacefully. Remanence about the decade that I was so lucky to have spent with him, and then head to McDonalds. I had to go through the line twice, boy was all about those sausage patties.
This time one thing was different. I’m older now, and while death still affects me the same, I waited to get emotional. He has been there for me, as a steady rock my entire life, I could do the same for him today. I wanted him to know that everything is okay, that dad is okay, and it’s a great day. When we finally arrived at the vet hospital, that’s when I got to make the easiest decision of my life.
“Do you want to go in the room with him?”
Your dog is there for you, every single day. On this day, be there for them. Hold their paw, kiss their cheek, and pat their heads. Go in the room with your dog, and be with them the same way you are on day 1.
Dog’s are not just pets, and by God they never will be. Trigger was the greatest thing that has every happened to me, and I have so many lessons learned from our experiences that still resonate with me to this day.
Training dogs for a living is one of the greatest jobs in the world, and offers more emotional fulfillment, challenges, and excitement than most jobs could ever dream. I believe that to my core. For someone to be lucky enough to have the skill, been taught the knowledge, and have the feel for training dogs (and that feel is something that you are born with) they need to count their lucky stars because it is a great gig. If you are a dog trainer, or thinking about getting into this industry, here are some things I would think about and reflect on below.
This job can get hard, and it is not for everyone. The first time a dog bites you, attempts to bites you, or bites someone in front of you, it’s a shock to the system. I think it’s important for everyone to see what a dog is capable of, and the power that these animals have. It will give you a great respect for how powerful they truly are. That being said, not everyone has to work with dog’s that are struggling with deep behavioral issues, and no where near everyone should. It’s an art, that takes a very long time to develop and nurture. In addition, all dogs do have the potential to bite, don’t ever forget that.
The potential to get bit, and get seriously hurt is not the hardest part of this job, it’s not even close. For me, the hardest part is the emotional toll dog training can take on you. If you really care about your job, and about helping people and dogs, you pour your entire being into every single dog you see, every single day of the week. The amount of passion, and the amount of compassion that you need to have and put into your work can become at times overwhelming. This gets amplified because people love their dogs so much. Think about, that during the last recession the pet industry was one of the only industries that continued to grow, not fall. Our dogs, cats, and other pets are so much more than just a pet, they are a huge portion of our family. In some cases, they are the only family that people may have. Owners have such an emotional attachment to our pets, that sometimes what may be necessary, is clouded by what we feel.
Sometimes being a dog trainer, also means being a great salesperson. You really have to sell and get the point across why what you are doing is necessary, and the importance it has to helping their dog’s life. I know some trainers who will simply tell it, and if owners don’t want to do it that’s on them. I get it, I understand it, especially because I’ve been in this game for a decade, but here is the thing. If you do a great job at selling what you know will help the owners dog, the dog’s life will improve! That is what keeps me going, and what is so damn important about this job, and why I try to be a wordsmith. Remember, the goal of our job is to improve the quality of life for the dog, improve the relationship of the dog and their human, and ease the stress for the human imposed by their dog. Simply telling a human to do this, do that, don’t do this, isn’t enough. They need to understand why, how, and what this will do, and the benefits of the work you want them to follow through with.
There are such limited numbers of great dog trainers, and such large numbers for dogs that need trained, that it causes a very big demand issue. The last two years have exasperated this as well. I want to help everyone in the entire world, but there is only 24 hours in a day, and you aren’t Superman. While you will help thousands of people in your life, you are going to run into a few people in your life that demand help immediately. Remember, if no one takes care of you, you won’t be able to take care of others. Make sure you give yourself necessary breaks and time for you. Whether it’s hiking, lifting, or painting, find outlets for you to decompress.
To add more into the mix, as a dog trainer you are going to find out that every other dog trainer on the planet hates you, and thinks you are a moron. Okay, that might be slightly exaggerated, but it’s a tough world. You are going to need a group of people to bounce ideas off of, discuss difficult cases, and add in new insights to your training program. I am blessed by being surrounded by a tremendous team, and without them I would fail. A quick shout out to my staff, Anthony, Michelle, Rachel, Erin, Travis, Donna, Bree, Josh, Jake, Cassidy, Emma, R2, and Joyce for being a part of the best training team on the planet. Also, Jenilee, Jenny, Andy, and Megan for everything that you all do too. I continue to appreciate and respect how amazing you all are at the work you do. I would also urge you to connect with dog trainers who may not do everything the same as you. It will give you inspiration and creativity, as well as new tools in your toolbox.
Another large issue that you also run into when training dogs is, believe it or not, owners don’t let you steal their dog when you think they are cute. It’s extremely rude.
Dog trainers, and future dog trainers, continue to help people help dogs. Continue to educate and be educated. Continue to love what you do.
Owner - Say It Once Dog Training
With family visiting, or with you leaving town to visit family, your dog will pick up on the added stress and act accordingly. A few tips that will come in handy during this Easter weekend.
If you plan on having family over, set your dog up for success. Make it easier on yourself and take a 30 minute walk the morning that your family is due to arrive. Remember, the goal of this walk is for your dog to check in with you, to focus and engage with you. Walk with a purpose, don’t let your dog walk aimlessly or they will carry that same mentality into the house. After your walk, give your dog a good 10-15 minute play session, but make it rigorous. You want to end with their tongue out and panting! When you are wrapping up your play, put your dog into the “place command” which will give them time to cool down and chill out. During this time, keep your leash on, which I highly recommend that you keep on during the days activities.
When your guests arrive, reiterate to them that your dog is in training, and it would be best if no one talked or pet them for the first while. This will give your dog a chance to sniff them, and stay relatively calm. If you have a jumper keep that leash in your hand. Remember, a dropped leash is off-leash!
You also want to remember that it’s one hundred percent okay to put your dog in the crate if they, you, or your guests are going to be overwhelmed. Meet your dog’s needs in the morning, and allow yourself to take a break from training your dog. Have the crate in an upstairs bedroom so you are not to disturb your dog, and even have a TV on in that room if necessary.
I hope you have the best Easter weekend, and get to spend quality time with your family. Give your dog some extra play and love during this time, but don’t forget to follow all the rules 😜