Anyone who has attended any of our training sessions or has discovered the amazing world of Absolute Dogs will be familiar with the term 'Ditch the Bowl'. But if it's your first time hearing about it, we understand it can sound a little daunting. Feeding your dog every piece of kibble by hand - where on earth will you get the time to do that? And what if you feed raw? That sounds messy!
Well don't worry - read on to find out just how enriching for you dog ditching the bowl can be, and how it's not only easy to incorporate in to your life, but provides so many opportunities for fun and learning that you'll never look back!
Why ditch the bowl?
Food is rewarding! It's rewarding for us, it's rewarding for our dogs. So think about it like this.... your dogs daily food allowance - imagine all of that in one big pot ready for the day ahead. That is one big pot of reward! It's valuable!
Rewarding good behaviour choices is the very best way to encourage more of the behaviour you want to see in your dog. And yes, there are lots of ways to reward and we love using all of them. A reward can be playing with a favourite toy, a gentle stroke, a game of chase, a verbal 'clever girl!', a cuddle on the sofa, a relaxed walk and so much more. But there's no denying that food is often one of the most powerful rewards for our dog - especially when it's delivered as an experience.
Think about how you enjoy to eat... sometimes you'll grab a quick bite on the go, sometimes you'll sit down to a Sunday lunch with the family and sometimes you'll go out for a slap up meal in a swanky restaurant. Every experience is different and you'll get a different level of enjoyment or enrichment from each. The same applies to your dog... by varying how and when you deliver their food you are providing a range of different experiences - experiences that can really support your dogs learning and will also pay in to that relationship bank account that you share with your pooch!
Better still, studies have proven that dogs like to work for their food! This is called contra-freeloading and this process attaches even more value to the food your dog receives.
We train dogs through the amazing power of games! Simple, fun, super powerful games that help to re-shape the way dogs think, helping them to build the skills they need to behave in the way you want them to. Ditching the bowl is a huge part of this approach - by delivering food to our dogs in a more exciting and enriching way we are applying lots of additional learning opportunities every day.
Our dogs daily food allowance becomes a huge pot of value that we can use during games to reinforce the learning and to recognise and reward all of the good decisions your dog makes every day. You'll be amazed by the behaviour changes you'll see in your dog JUST by ditching the bowl. Combining this with our fun games based approach can result in incredible transformations - quickly and easily turning many dog struggles in to strengths!
Ready to give it a go with your pooch? Here’s how to do it:
Measure out your dogs daily food allowance ready for the day ahead.
Store the food in a number of easily accessible containers around the house - make sure you have food on hand wherever you are.
Remember that rewarding behaviour you like will encourage more of that behaviour. Don't take all of the great things your dog does for granted! Notice and reward their good choices. You'll be amazed by how many you see when you look for them.
Animate your food delivery - make it interesting and exciting. If you've attended any of our training sessions you'll have so many games to choose from. Mix it up and have fun with your dog!
Be creative... you don't have to feed each piece of kibble individually. Scatter feeding is a great approach. Throw a few handfuls of kibble out in to the garden and let your dog go and sniff for it. Sniffing is a calming and enriching behaviour for dogs and they get rewarded for this good behaviour by finding super tasty bits of their dinner. Snuffle mats are a great alternative for inside the house.
Incorporate long lasting chews, lickimats, kongs and puzzle toys in to your daily feeding regime. All are wonderful for growing calmness in your pooch which will help with almost every behaviour struggle.
If you feed your dog on raw or wet food then you need to be a little more creative - but you can still very much ditch the bowl! Squeezy bottles are a great option for giving food rewards in games. Or try feeding your dog from a plastic spoon - my GSD loves nothing better than spoon fed rewards! Raw and wet food is perfect for putting in kongs and on to lickimats. You can also consider using a dehydrator to turn raw food in to training treats that aren't messy to handle and that your pooch will adore!