If you’re ready to start Ditching the Routine then its best to start with ditching something else - the bowl. Every morning we start the day with a pot of value, our dog’s daily food allowance. We can decide how to use that value, but too often we chose to put it in the bowl. Our dogs love their bowls, but we want them to find the value in our relationship. Instead of pouring their food away it becomes an almost endless currency (unless you have a tiny dog!) you can use to boost your relationship. Their food can be used for training, enrichment, or rewarding good choices.
If you have never trained with their food before they may not be interested in it right away. It’s important that you animate it, have fun, and just play. There are a lot of ways to play with food, here are just a few of our favorites:
You can also move your hand while holding it and see if you can get them to follow it. This technique is great for teaching behaviors. One of the keys to getting them interested is by thinking about things they find rewarding, chase, stalking, catching, etc.
Once your dog is interested in playing with their food you can begin to use it to reward good choices such as:
Food is also a form of enrichment for your dogs and the lists of enriching things are endless. We love:
Again, enrichment is endless. A great place to get enrichment ideas, including many DIY, visit the Canine Enrichment Facebook group.
The best part of Ditching the Bowl? Training. Our dogs “work” (although we prefer to think of it as play!) for their daily food allowance. Whether that is in the form of enrichment on their own or playing games with us instead. It’s through games that they learn to make good choices.
So here’s your challenge, start Ditching the Bowl! It can feel daunting when you start, but possible no matter how many dogs you have. Many of us are home right now, which means more time to create good habits.
Start by measuring your dogs’ daily food allowance in the morning so that you have it ready to go first thing and you know how much they are getting. Some people prefer to put it in a bowl on the counter, others use individual plastic containers for each dog. We use a large vegetable tray with a different compartment for each dog.
Begin playing as we outlined above and try not to think of things as “breakfast” or “dinner”. Remember, you’ve got the whole day to use the food, but if it’s easier for you to think of it in halves you can do so. If your dog doesn’t seem interested in playing try putting the food away for a few minutes and then try again. We keep play short, right around 3 minutes, but play as frequently as we can.
This is where you start to get creative! Play while you put your own food in the microwave, during your favorite commercial, we even have someone that plays a game while brushing their teeth! Reward for calmness while you cook or workout. There is no right or wrong way to do things.
Throughout the day we also give 1-2 stuffed toys and often their lick mat. These enrichment activities are also calming, and calm dogs make even MORE good choices.
So what are you waiting for? Its time to get ditching! If you can’t get through the whole day, that’s okay, just start. Let us know how you are doing in the comments below, and if you are an experienced ditcher tell us your favorite way to ditch!
Owner, Head Trainer