I recall a dog-training program where the trainer first determined whether the dog was treat- or toy-driven before creating a program that enticed the pooch to learn. Personally, I’ve never known a dog to work for toys. I know it’s possible, but every dog I know works for food. Particularly during the early days of food-driven training, it’s easy to end up with a well-trained, but chunky dog. But I found a two-step solution that made a notable difference in my dog’s weight.
Exercise, exercise, exercise
Did you really think I would avoid talking about exercise? Daily walks are essential – as long as every step doesn’t involve additional treats. More important, in addition to providing ample training sessions on commands like “heal,” “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it,” walks provide constant opportunities to socialize your dog with people and other animals. Once my holy terrier, Monty learned to behave on walks, they became a refreshing interlude in our daily routine.
Keeping the calories down
I used to think dogs required special tasty treats for training, but it just isn’t true. I developed something I call “the kibble diet.” Each morning, I measure out the proper portion of dog food he needs for the day. Then I put a handful of the measured food into my pocket.
The more training we do, the more pocket-kibble Monty receives. But the beauty of this approach is two-fold:
- He eats his food more slowly: The food-driven dogs I know tend to inhale their meals. If you listen to them eat, you hear little chewing going on. We all know chewing thoroughly is a healthy way to eat, so why not help your dog get his nutrition in a healthy way?
- Portion control is a no-brainer: A kibble-filled measuring cup takes up very little space, even on my tiny kitchen counter. But as long as you stick to the system, his evening meal is automatically reduced on days when you needed more treats for training.
Over time, as I saw the results of the kibble diet, I had little problem sticking to it. But I’m still pretty soft-hearted, and I want to give my dog some variety. I do provide occasional additional treats per day. He shares a small piece of my banana each morning, and he gets a daily dog treat stuffed in a toy so it takes him a long time to eat it.
Weight control is good for both of you
For those of you who have never seen me, I’m about three inches tall, so every calorie puts pounds on that I don’t need. I need daily exercise as much as my dog needs it. And knowing those big brown eyes will be on me while I’m eating helps me avoid over-indulging in snacks.