Posts tagged #dog behaviorist Denver

Food Rewards - What should you use for training?

Food selection is a very important part of the reward-based training process. All food is not equal. You can train your dog in less time, with longer lasting results if you choose the right reward for a job well done.

The first concept each trainer needs to understand is that the food you are using needs to be rewarding TO THE DOG. It sounds so obvious, but I have seen countless new trainers use their dog’s kibble, or buy some super-fancy-dehydrated-omega-something-or-other, that their dogs just didn’t like. You are not incentivizing your dog to work with you if they don’t want what you have. With a huge variety of options at the pet stores, it’s easy to go for really expensive, thinking you’re getting ‘the best’ treats. Or, you might go cheap, thinking you’ll save a dime. But neither are necessarily true. Be sure that what ever you’re using is of high value to your dog.

Food should be soft and easy to swallow. Nothing halts a good training flow like the crunch, crunch, crunch of a big biscuit. Your goal is repetition of the right behavior. It’s hard to get reps in when the dog spends a lot of time chewing.

Food should be easy to handle to avoid dropping it on the ground. Dropping food on the ground encourages your dog to break their attention from you to search for hidden treats in the grass. That can be quite counterproductive. Tiny treats, or treats that shred and crumble are not good choices.

Maybe your dog isn’t very in to what you have that training session. What do you do? Don’t switch training rewards mid session. Instead, do your best to end on a successful repetition of the command or behavior you’re working on and end the session. Make a mental note, that next time, you will need to up the value of the reward for that particular circumstance or environment and try again later. If you switch, your dog can learn to ‘hold out’ on you, and wait to perform until you have just the right thing. 

Use a variety of rewards. Try to find five or six different rewards that your dog goes bananas for…..but not in the same training session. Diversity and interest is key, but each type of food has a value rating to your dog. They will like one type of food over another, if used in the same session, and feel disappointed (instead of rewarded) when they get the less desirable treat. Switching the food out each session can also reduce irritation to the digestive system.

Foods that are nutritionally balanced are ideal for dog training. Many of the products you find at the pet stores are full of sugar, artificial ingredients, dyes and chemicals. There are healthy, tasty options out there if you know what to look for. Our favorite food rewards are high in value and easy on the budget. Give these a try:

RedBarn meat rolls

Natural Balance meat rolls

Fresh Pet Select Vitals

Hotdogs (yes, good old fashioned hot dogs)

Cut up cheese

Happy Howies rolls

Looking for a budget option, or does your dog have dietary restrictions? Follow our Dog Dynamix Board on Pinterest for delicious home made dog treat recipes.

Dog Training Best Practices

We have compiled a list of 'Dog Owner Commandments' to help our clients have the most happy, well-adjusted, and behaved dogs around. Follow these guidelines, and you are sure to have a Dynamic Dog. We'll forgo the 'thou shalts,' and get straight to the point.

1. Never give a command you cannot or will not enforce. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

2. Freedoms should be earned and not gifted. Freedom to be off-leash, and freedom to be loose in the house are all contingent upon having solid obedience and reliability. If you have those goals for your dog, help them earn those freedoms through management and training.

3. You are always 'training your dog' whether you are making a conscious effort to do so or not. You are either training behaviors you like, or behaviors you don't like. Be sure to think about how your actions may be affecting your dog's behavior.

4. Your puppy is learning to be an adult dog. What ever they practice is what they will become. Keep this in mind when you are deciding the house rules.

5. Dogs needs physical and mental exercise. Make sure you're using a balanced approach for total wellness.

6. The pet industry sells products for money, not results. Gimmicks like calming aids, 'special' harnesses, leashes and collars, and various other products are no substitute for a good training plan. Some products may even exacerbate behavior problems instead of curing them.

7. All healthy relationships have love and respect in common. Your dog can adore you and not respect you. Harmonize your relationship by ensuring both parties are invested. Make sure you're giving your dog what they need, and not just what they want.

8. Your dog needs rules and routine, exercise, and affection, in that order. 

9. Crate training is an essential protocol, even for dogs that will eventually have free roaming privileges. The last place your dog wants to learn about confinement is his first day of boarding in a new place, or worse yet, at the vet when she is sick or injured.

10. Spend time with your dog everyday; Quality, dedicated, invested time. Your dog needs 20 minutes (minimum) of your undivided attention, daily. Choose one activity to do with your dog (play frisbee, run, walk, hike, swim, agility, nosework, teaching tricks, obedience training etc) every day.  If you lose a thing, you can replace it. If you lose money, you can make more. Time you can never get back. It is the only true commodity. Never waste a moment with your dog. 



Recall problems? We can help! Most dogs will come when called as long as there's nothing better to do. But the second there is something interesting, the dog is suddenly blind and deaf to your commands. If your dog won’t come when he is called, don’t panic. We can fix that. The fact that you’ve tried and failed before doesn't matter. We can fix that too. We have compiled some common mistakes that people make when trying to teach their dog to recall, as well as some simple fixes. 


Stop being the fun police. 

The first thing you need to do is evaluate your own habits and behavior when you call your dog. Too many owners act as the 'fun police' and have created a negative association with the recall command. The dogs associate the word "come" with unpleasant or boring (to a dog) things like: 


  1. Punishment, or being told "NO!"

  2. A crabby, mean and irritating voice

  3. The end of the walk or outing  

  4. Being grabbed by the collar, and put back on leash 

  5. Being called away from fun things like chasing other animals including people or dogs 

The first step in getting a solid recall is to make the very act of running towards you, the best thing that happens to your dog all day, any day and anywhere. What's your dog's favorite thing in the whole world? Steak? Hotdogs? Cheese? A toy? If you want a solid recall, be sure to never leave home without the proper currency. Kibble won't cut it, here, folks. You need high value goods, so come with you’re a-game. You will need some place to store these goods on your person. We recommend a bait bag or training vest. They're like your Mastercard. Never leave home without them! 


Play the Name Game. 

If you are new to training your dog to come when called, or trying to fix an old problem, it's best to start training or retraining with your dog on a 6 foot leash. Wait until your dog is not looking at you and then say your dog’s name in a very bright and happy tone; you know, not the same tone as the old fun police. As soon as your dog turns to look at you, mark the 'look' with a word to let the dog know this is fantastic, like “yes” or “good,” and then immediately give your dog a high value reward. Once your dog is turning towards you 10 out of 10 times, try the name game in an enclosed area off leash (kitchen, living room, back yard). Systematically increase the level of distraction on outings using the 3D's. Play this game in a minimum of 5 new places.


Don't Bribe the Dog. 

Are you waiving biscuits in the air in a feeble attempt to call your dog inside away from a squirrel? Stop. Just stop. Shaking the cookie bag, or bouncing the ball won't work in the long run, as you are only teaching your dog to measure if what you have is worth stopping what he's doing. If there are distractions involved, the odds are not in your favor. Remember that coming when called produces payment. If you have ever worked with a crooked contractor, you know that payment up front rarely gets the job done! 


Don't chase the dog. 

Dogs love to be chased! Moving towards the dog will most likely begin the best game of catch-me-if-you-can your dog has played all day. And you will be very frustrated in the interim. Instead, RUN AWAY. That's right. Move away from your dog, and if he moves towards you, produce one of those a-game rewards we already talked about. 


Motivate your dog.  

A dog who is well fed won't care about your treats. Be sure to practice your training when your dog is HUNGRY if you're using food. If your dog is more into toys and activity, don't walk/jog/hike them to death before training. Make sure your dog has the proper motivation to participate in the training.  


Are you Charlie Brown's School Teacher? 

If you are repeating the "Come" command, without any follow through, you are definitely starting to sound like the teacher..... to your dog. You must be able to follow through with your instructions. If there is the slightest chance that your dog might not come to you, keep it on leash. That's right. Use a long line if you want to play ball or Frisbee, or let your dog explore without the possibility of ignoring your command. You can always step on the line, and then reel that sucker in like a marlin if your dog should choose to ignore the command. That way he learns you will make good on your word; the first time, every time. As always, be sure to reward any and all correct responses (did you bring you’re a-game?)! Provide contrast and clarity to your dog. 


Take your time. 

Training a solid recall is a step by step process. Letting your dog off leash too early is a sure fire way to teach them NOT to come. Use the strategies already outlined. Once the name game is solid (10 out of 10 correct responses in a row in five different places), you can start the formal process. Use a leash or a long line until your dog will come to you, starting at 6 feet away from you and then up to 50 ft away, 9 out of ten times under the following conditions, in the following order: 

  1. In your kitchen

  2. In your living room  

  3. In your back yard 

  4. In an empty parking lot

  5. In an empty park  

  6. With a food bowl near by but not in reach (with food in it)

  7. With a toy near by but not in reach 

  8. With toy in reach

  9. People in the distance

  10. Dogs in the distance 

  11. Wildlife in the distance 

  12. People near by 

  13. Dogs near by  

  14. Wildlife near by (preferably not of the predator varieties)

  15. In a busy park

  16.  People close or interacting with the dog 

  17. Dogs close or interacting with the dog  

  18.  Don't let the wildlife get too close!! 

If you complete this process using high value rewards and no-nonsense follow-through, you will have a solid recall! 


Retraining with a new command 

It's okay to start over. If you have made a lot of the training mistakes we outlined, change your recall command and retrain it. Stop using the 'fun police' word and use "here" or "front" or "Mississipi...." It doesn't matter as long as you don't make the same mistakes again.  


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