When we think of dog chews, we think of a treat that takes our dog awhile to consume. This can make using them in traditional training situations difficult, as we usually want the treats quick and easy to consume. However, there are a number of ways we can use them to shape behavior we want our dogs to repeat.
- We can use dog chews for the following training situations:
1. Patio Training
2. Reactivity Training
3. Mental Enrichment
4. Resource Guarding
5. Puppy Training
1. Patio Training
Dog friendly patios and breweries are becoming more and more popular. Everyone wants to bring their dogs with them after work or on the weekend since they were cooped up all day. But if your dog doesn’t know how to behave on a patio, it can actually do more harm than good. When we leave dogs to entertain themselves, they will generally choose behaviors we don’t appreciate. This may include barking, chewing leashes, beds, or table legs, jumping on you or people walking by the table, or begging. If we are proactive and want to set our dogs up to succeed, we can bring along a nice dog chew to entertain our dogs while we focus on eating and conversation. Having our dogs in public should mean that they are our number one focus, but this can be hard when eating. Giving them a dog chew to focus on lets us be able to split our focus between eating, conversation, and our dogs.
2. Reactivity Training *Working with a qualified trainer is always recommended*
Part of reactivity training is making sure our dogs are comfortable enough to work with us. When dogs are stressed, their ability to eat usually lessens or stops altogether. Eating is a good gauge to let you know if you are pushing your dog too hard during reactivity training. Once you have trained a helpful behavior, like mat/place, you can then ask your dog to lay down and give them a chew. As long as they are comfortable enough to continue chewing on the chew, you know your dog is still under threshold and able to work with you.
3. Mental Enrichment
Many people may think mental enrichment is not part of training, but it most definitely is. If we are mentally fulfilling our dogs, we will see a lot less nuisance behaviors because our dogs do not feel they have to go and entertain themselves. Making sure you are routinely giving your dogs mentally enriching activities is very important. Mixing up your dog chews and giving different kinds can keep your dogs interested in dog chews. You can go as far as giving them in different locations too. If you have work due for school or work, consider taking your dog to a quiet park and giving them a chew while you work on a bench. Not only will the chew make your dogs think, but the environment is also novel to your dogs.
4. Resource Guarding *Working with a qualified trainer is always recommended*
Resource guarding is always something we want to prevent or work on. While the protocols for working on resource guarding are pretty straight forward, it should always be done on your dog’s timeline. Working with a trainer is always recommended, especially with young children in the house. Once your dog is successful with a lower value food such as kibble, giving our dogs a dog chew can be the next, higher value step. (To learn more about a good resource guarding behavior modification protocol, I recommend Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs by Jean Donaldson.)
5. Puppy Training
Puppy Training with a dog chew can be similar to patio training. Consider using dog chews whenever you want your dog to practice calm, stationary behaviors. In the evening when you are ready to sit down on the couch to watch some tv, consider tethering your dog with a leash to confine them a little, and give them a dog chew to entertain themselves. Once again, leaving our puppies to make their own entertainment will only lead to frustration, tears, and destruction. Chews can also give our dogs something enriching while in their cages. Promoting calm behaviors with puppies will lead to calmer adults. The act of chewing is also a calming behavior for dogs and only one of the reasons puppies choose to do it so often.
As you can see in all five of our training situations using a dog chew, chewing helps promote calm behaviors in our dogs. Giving our dogs a good outlet to chew is very important to having a mentally healthy dog. Consider using Nature Gnaws chews the next time you’re trying to work with your dog. Do you have another way you like to use dog chews in your training? Leave your ideas in the comments below!
About the Author
Monica Callahan BS KPA-CTP owns Family Fido LLC in Conway, South Carolina. Monica is a Certified Training Partner with Karen Pryor Academy, a licensed Family Paws Parent Educator, and holds a position on the Board of Directors for Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She enjoys educating families and children on appropriate ways to interact and live with dogs. Monica shares her house with her husband, Zachary Callahan, children Zoe (9) and Zac (7), and four dogs, Doc (Dalmatian), Disco (Windsprite), Orio (Dalmatian), and Quint (Dalmatian). Orio and Quint (@The.Hero.Dogs) are certified therapy dogs through ATD and enjoy teaching fire safety and appropriate greetings to children. Monica also actively participates in dog sports with her dogs including scent work, rally, conformation, lure coursing, and more. You can find out more about Family Fido and The Hero Dogs here: http://www.familyfidotraining.com.