As if you didn’t need more encouragement to try Master Bowie’s meals!
Guest blog by Lauren Hewitt-Watts BSc MRes CAB
Clinical Animal Behaviourist, Founder of Dog Mum Mindset®️
In 2023, positive + ethical training is the vibe. We often use food for training, and so what better way to reap the benefits of this than to use fresh, natural treats? Not only will you get a better trained dog, you’ll be providing them with key nutrients that you need – win-win!
Plus, I’ve been a clinical behaviourist of 10 years (www.dogmummindset.com), and so have seen more than most the link between the food we give our dogs, and their behaviour. It’s really simple, when we take time to think about it – just look back on those times when you have been eating badly and not only how that affects your health, but your mood too. On the flip side, when you are well nourished, you feel sparkly, vibrant and happy, and what more could you want for your companion?!
Here are my tried + tested tips to delivering more fresh food to your dog…
1. Become a Treat Connoisseur
You can go from all ends of the spectrum – from shop bought treats, to whipping up a delightful recipe from Master Bowie’s blog. The aim is to go as natural as possible, because some store bought dog treats can actually be less healthy, and less rewarding, than simple pieces of chopped meat. That goes for ‘low fat’, ‘grain free’ treats too! My dog’s go-to, as a delicate dog, is plain cooked, free range chicken which works wonders! Experiment and see what your dog loves to have (you’ll be surprised at their selective tastes).
2. Easy Treat Delivery
Training with treats means having LOTS of small pieces, rather than a few bigger pieces – because you want to reward your dog quickly and frequently for all the amazing behaviour they are showing! For example, if you were teaching a dog to settle, you would start to deliver food to them one after the other, second by second, for being quiet and relaxed, and then you might reduce the frequency once they have understood. So…you want your treats to be easy to handle and small. Go for textures that mean you can chop them up, aren’t too wet, and are the right size for your dog (pea sized is normally a good aim). Any chopped meat is good for this, as well as things like carrot, apple and cucumber.
3. Watching your dog’s waistline…
“But, I don’t want my dog getting fat!” Is often a cry heard from those who do lots of training. The answer is simple: take your dog’s daily food allowance. Divide it into the number of meals they have per day + 1. Use the extra meal for training.
Even better – weigh it all out, and take all training from that amount throughout the day, because we know that training can vary day-by-day. It’s better to use lots of food for training and have a small bowl left over – and means your Masterchef canine creations will be appreciated for longer, too.
4. Mix them up
Even if you have the BEST treat in the world – eating it every single day would become oh so boring after a while. Part of training is the excitement and anticipation your dog will feel when you are doing something new. In fact, we know that using an unpredictable amount of food and rewards can help dogs train faster than always giving the same thing – because they are more willing to ‘gamble’ on the next prize! Therefore, take out a range of food when training; some might be their normal dinner, some might be plain meat, and some might be an extra special creation that you have made. Sometimes give them a tiny bit, sometimes give them lots. Use this for your dog’s recall and you’ll find it faster than ever before!
How flat would our lives be, eating the same meal, twice a day, every day until the end? That’s what a lot of dogs have – although, I’m guessing, not yours if you are here! Enrichment, aka making our dogs’ mealtimes more exciting, helps them use their brain and explorative side. We want our dogs to be physically AND mentally exercised, and so now is your time to think outside the box when delivering food. Can you feed them from a plate, a lick mat, a snuffle mat? Can you roll it up in the towel? Can you hide it in the garden? Can you give them all different types of textures and tastes, separated out into ‘tasting platters’? All of this will contribute to a dog’s better behaviour overall – and what better feeling than to have a dog full, fulfilled, and happy.
I hope you have enjoyed these tips for treat training! I am the founder of Dog Mum Mindset, an online training boutique for dog parents + pros with online courses on puppies, separation anxiety and more. I’d love to see your training treat creations! ♥️