Mia Bella – Building patience in food-driven dogs

Mia Bella is highly food motivated. This means she’ll sit, paw, and jump through hoops for food. Of course, this could also mean that she doesn’t do much if there’s no treat in hand. From a trainer’s perspective, being food motivated is great because I know how to get her to do things for me (And how to then slowly wean her off food and move to verbal praise).

The following exercise teaches the dog patience and trust in the pet parent i.e. focus on me and you will get your reward. It has worked with Mia Bella! She has become calmer and more patient with practice.

Take a small food treat...
Take a small food treat…

The steps are:

  1. Hold a food treat in your hand, in a way that your pup can see and smell it, but cannot eat it. (See pics)
  2. Your pup will keep trying to lick and gnaw at it. Be strong, and don’t release the treat. Don’t hurt yourself while doing this exercise. Mia Bella would paw at my hand frequently which resulted in some pretty nasty scratches.
  3. Once your pup stops going at the treat, count till 3, pet, praise and release the treat.

    IMG-20150628-WA0008
    …and hold it like this
  4. Keep practicing until you reach a count of 10.
  5. Remember to always pet and praise before releasing the food treat. This is an essential prerequisite to wean her off food as the sole reward.

Most puppies are food motivated too. I usually start all my puppy training sessions with this exercise since it teaches them to be patient and reduces their mouthing behaviour significantly.

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