eileenanddogs

Category: Treats

Tossing Cookies: Delivering Treats and Toys in Dog Training

Tossing Cookies: Delivering Treats and Toys in Dog Training

One thing I notice about experienced trainers is how well they can deliver food to dogs. Usually their hand motions are both fast and quiet, and the food goes just where they intend. This may sound like a minor issue, but it’s not. The mechanics of training are the key to successful, efficient training and a non-frustrated dog.

The way we deliver food in training needs to further our goals. There are times when Continue reading “Tossing Cookies: Delivering Treats and Toys in Dog Training”

Peanut Butter Dog Treats With No Sticking! Another Silicone Pan Recipe

Peanut Butter Dog Treats With No Sticking! Another Silicone Pan Recipe

Pyramid style silicone pan with baked peanut butter dog treats
Sorry I’m not filling my pans as neatly as I did before! That part got old.

I posted in January about making hundreds of small treats at a time in a silicone pan. I had no idea how lucky I was that I hit on a recipe that worked so well the first time. You can check out that chicken-based recipe and some details about the pan in this post. It seems that you need to have enough binding ingredients in these recipes or things get…sticky.

Ever since then I have been trying on and off to develop a recipe for peanut butter dog treats for the silicone pan. So far Continue reading “Peanut Butter Dog Treats With No Sticking! Another Silicone Pan Recipe”

No More Cutting! Making 500 Non-Crumbly Dog Treats From a Mold

No More Cutting! Making 500 Non-Crumbly Dog Treats From a Mold

Best dog treat hack ever! Here’s how to make batches of more than 500 small treats at a time without having to cut them up. Continue reading “No More Cutting! Making 500 Non-Crumbly Dog Treats From a Mold”

Tricks for Frozen Dog Treats

Tricks for Frozen Dog Treats

I am all about efficiency. You could also say I’m lazy. Also, my freezer is usually stuffed full.

So rather than freeze whole filled food toys for three dogs, I use several gadgets that let me freeze things separately. Then I can put frozen dog treats (of all sorts—just look!) into food toys for a quick treat for the dogs that they can enjoy for a few minutes.

Continue reading “Tricks for Frozen Dog Treats”
Flavors: Ideas for Ultra High Value Treats

Flavors: Ideas for Ultra High Value Treats

A plate of spaghetti with a red colored meat sauce and a pile of grated cheese on top
Spaghetti Bolognese as a training treat? Is that even possible? See below!

OK, I’m going to break the ultimate taboo here and talk about giving so-called “people food” to dogs. 1)Nutritionist Linda Case points out aptly in the comments that even the term “people food” is inaccurate and comprises a completely false dichotomy. I won’t use it anymore, even to make a point.

Most of us who do positive reinforcement training and counterconditioning are already accustomed to giving our dogs some pretty special, high value stuff at times. Tuna, ham, Gorgonzola cheese; most anything fragrant and full of calories has been tried at one time or another.

But these types of foods have something in common, and that is that most consist of one basic flavor.

A friend who doesn’t actually train her dogs, but gives them small amounts of interesting food out of love and as enrichment, caused me to notice how much dogs appear to enjoy complex odors and flavors.

My friend read a quote similar to this one about dogs’ olfactory powers: “We smell ‘vegetable soup,’ but a dog smells each individual ingredient.” 2)In the training community, this quote may have originated in a tracking book in 2010. It was picked up and used by the Canine Nosework folks as well. Author and scientist Alexandra Horowitz writes:

Dogs have more genes committed to coding olfactory cells, more cells, and more kinds of cells, able to detect more kinds of smells….their sense of smell may be millions of times more sensitive than ours.–Alexandra Horowitz, “Inside of a Dog,” 2010

My friend subsequently started making sure that her dogs regularly got–along with the smells–some tastes of safe, home cooked foods that were complex and seasoned. Just because she figured they would like it. She was right. They love it. She calls it “flavors” and all her dogs line up for their special tastes of interesting food, and look forward to a bite in their dinner bowls.  And note: her dogs can all proficiently suck up spaghetti à la “Lady and the Tramp.”

Smell vs. Taste

Even though they have those amazing noses, dogs have a lot fewer taste buds than we do. They probably can’t discriminate tastes nearly as well. But that’s no reason to limit their food to “simple” tastes like we often do, even when looking for high value treats. The smell of complex foods is likely rewarding in itself, and I find it hard to believe, after seeing what complex foods dogs often seem to like, that the smell doesn’t enrich the eating experience.

I remember one day at an agility practice when one of the people brought spice cookies for the humans. The dogs, with my Summer leading the way, went nuts over the odor of those cookies and when offered some bites gobbled them down like ambrosia. Summer has had cookies (intended for humans) before. Mostly simple things like vanilla wafers and shortbread.  The smells and tastes of butter, sugar, and vanilla are not unknown to her. But add in the clove and nutmeg and cinnamon in spice cookies and it was clearly a whole different experience.

Cautions

OK, before my suggestions, here are the cautions. Use common sense about foods that are toxic to dogs. Here is a list:  Foods That Are Hazardous to Dogs.

Also, be careful about foods with high fat content because of the risk of pancreatitis, plus of course all those calories. Highly processed foods full of sugar or white flour (see the fast food entries below) are probably best kept to small quantities as well. They can’t be any better for dogs than they are for us…. High salt items aren’t great either. And on the other hand beware of artificially sweetened foods, which may have Xylitol, extremely toxic to dogs (thanks to reader Jane for this reminder).

Finally, with regard to using these kinds of treats for counterconditioning: I generally avoid making suggestions about things that “work for some dogs.” It is tempting when working with fearful dogs to try every trendy thing that comes along, without buckling down to do the actual conditioning and training which has been shown to help. So I don’t usually say, “It can’t hurt to try.” It can hurt to spend time on things that aren’t likely to work. But I don’t believe widening the search for foods that our dogs love falls into that bucket. It’s part of the basics of training and conditioning to find something the dog goes crazy for.

Practicality

So OK, that plate of spaghetti looks great, and it’s not too onion-y, but how could one use something like that as a training treat?

Remember food tubes? If spaghetti with meat sauce turned my dog on like nothing else, I would be putting it in a blender and dishing it out with a food tube. But there are quite a few “people foods” that lend themselves more easily to training.

A pile of plain tortellini on a green plate.
Plain tortellini are popular with dogs and fairly  practical

Things You Can Cut Into Pieces

  • Cheese or meat tortellini or ravioli, boiled plain
  • Commercial or homemade meatballs
  • Meatloaf
  • Grilled cheese sandwich
  • Whole wheat waffle with cranberries (NOT raisins)
  • Fast food hamburger or cheeseburger with bun (hold the onion, mustard, and pickle). The buns are very soft–just rip off small bites with both meat and bread
  • Fast food breakfast sandwich
  • Pizza
  • Pumpkin or spice bread  (no chocolate chips)

Things to Blend and Put in a Food Tube 

Some of these may take some finesse with the food processor, especially those with  potatoes. They can get gluey. Most of these require the addition of some liquid.

  • Spaghetti with meat sauce
  • Barbecue meat
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Omelettes
  • Hash brown casserole
  • Lasagne
  • Many soups, stews, and casseroles

A Little More Common Sense

OK, before the healthy food posse comes after me, please note that I am not recommending that anyone change their dog’s diet to include these foods in quantity. Just a bite now and then for enrichment, for a very special training treat, or for counterconditioning. And I wanted to give the people who do lots of counterconditioning some ideas for things they may not have used yet.

Also, there are plenty of non-junky home cooked foods. The sky is the limit!

My Summer will do anything for any sort of bread or baked goods. What interesting things does your dog like?

A brown dog is exiting a set of weave poles, with her eyes on a piece of white bread that her handler is throwing ahead
Summer weaving for plain white bread (with the headless agility handler)

 Related Posts

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Photo Credits

Spaghetti image

By Manfred&Barbara Aulbach (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 ) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html )], via Wikimedia Commons

Tortellini image

By cyclonebill (Tortellini med valnøddeolie og sort peber) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons

© Eileen Anderson 2015                                                                                                                               eileenanddogs.com

Notes   [ + ]

1. Nutritionist Linda Case points out aptly in the comments that even the term “people food” is inaccurate and comprises a completely false dichotomy. I won’t use it anymore, even to make a point.
2. In the training community, this quote may have originated in a tracking book in 2010. It was picked up and used by the Canine Nosework folks as well.
The Secret to Filling a Food Tube

The Secret to Filling a Food Tube

Two Coghlan's food tubes used for dog training. They are clear plastic with black caps and a white clamp at the bottom. The one on the left has a white filling (Neufchatel cheese, milk, and peanut butter) and the one on the right has a brown filling: canned cat food.
Yummy goodness for dogs. Recipes below.

A food tube (aka squeeze tube) is a vehicle for delivering soft, tasty food straight into your dog’s mouth. Food tubes are great for general dog training when high value treats are needed.  They are also invaluable for doing desensitization/counterconditioning for dogs with fear issues.

There is a trick for using food tubes successfully, and just as with the non-crumbly treat recipe, I’m going to tell you right up front. I wish someone had told me, because the first time I ever tried a food tube, it didn’t work for us and I didn’t try it again for more than a year.

The secret to good use of a food tube is to get the filling just the right consistency. If it is too solid or dry, like ground up roasted white meat chicken without much moisture, it won’t extrude correctly. Likewise if it’s lumpy. If it’s too liquid-y, like chicken baby food or plain yogurt, it drips out when you are not trying to feed your dog and makes a mess.

So what you do is either buy something that is already the right consistency, or mix and match different filling types to achieve that in a do-it-yourself way.

The rest of the post covers what you can buy and what you can make, and has a few other tips for successful use.

The Easiest Way

Here is the very easiest way to use a food tube for successful high value treat delivery:

  1. Buy a couple of Coghlan’s squeeze tubes from REI or Amazon. (Trainer Randi Rossman recommends these tubes, which are similar but have a larger opening. The discussion in this blog is geared towards the Coghlan tubes since they are what I have used and can make recommendations about.)
  2. Go to a pet food or grocery store and buy a can of pureed style dog or cat food. Or for raw feeders, get finely ground meat.
  3. Put the lid on the tube, turn the tube upside down, and spoon the food in. If there is separate juice in the canned food, save it for something else.
  4. Squeeze the air out, fold over the bottom, and close with the included clamp.
  5. Take off the lid and offer a squirt to your dog when he does something right. You will become a god in his eyes. (And he’ll soon learn how to get the goodness efficiently into his mouth!)

Mixing It Yourself

Zani food tube
Zani loves the white meat chicken & baby food mixture

Again, it’s all about the consistency. In the series of pictures above: the “too thick” one was 8 oz of baked white meat chicken, chopped fine in a food processor. The “too thin” one was 2.5 oz of Gerber chicken baby food straight out of the jar. The Goldilocks version was simply those two things combined in that proportion.

So that gives you the idea. In most cases, if you use 3 – 4 parts of something thick cut with 1 part of something thinner, you’ll probably hit the sweet spot. Here are some suggestions to choose from. Be mindful of the fat content whenever you give your dog rich stuff. Some of these adapt very well to low fat though.

Thick Things 

Thin Things

  • Low salt broth
  • Yogurt
  • Apple sauce
  • Milk
  • Baby food
  • Pureed veggies (baby food or homemade)

Can Go Either Way

  • Peanut butter
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Canned tripe (but every once in a while there is a piece of…something…that doesn’t want to go through the hole). That stuff is crack for dogs, though.
  • Canned pumpkin
  • Small curd cottage cheese

Thickeners

(These are things you can add to something that is too drippy. See Micha’s filling method below.)

  • Oat or rice flour
  • Guar gum
  • Tapioca flour

Tips

  • Test the mixture at the temperature at which you will be using it. Most will be softer at room temperature, more solid when refrigerated.
  • Test the consistency by taking off the lid and pointing the end down. If filling drips out without squeezing, it’s too thin.
  • Avoid canned foods that say “chunky,” “stew,” “homestyle,” or “flakes.”
  • If canned food is too moist, let it drain in a strainer–Randi Rossman.

Fillings

(Thank you to members of the Facebook Fearful Dogs Group for fillings suggestions and others throughout this post!)

  • Canned dog or cat food: pureed or mousse style. Examples: Wellness 95% canned food; Newman’s Own Organic Dog Food (Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldogs.com says this one cuts nicely with canned pumpkin); Friskies pâté style canned cat food.
  • Honest Kitchen dehydrated dog food (rehydrated of course!).
  • Food tube heather edgar
    Heather’s dogs are crazy about this liverwurst!

    Heather Edgar of Caninesteins says: “The hands-down favourite of all of my dogs is liverwurst. If you wanted to dilute it down because it’s both high calorie and a bit thick, it could be pureed with a baby food veg or cooked pureed vegetables–the easiest is probably using jarred baby food sweet potato.” 

  • Alex Bliss starts with pureed baby food and adds chicken breast, a tin of sardines, or tuna. She says that low fat soft cheese is also very popular with her dogs as a base for other flavors.
  • You can use pure peanut butter at room temperature, but oh, the calories! You’d better have a big dog or a very special occasion!
  • Ground raw meat for the raw feeders!
  • Deb Manheim CPDT-KA, CDBC of Happy Tails Family Dog Training purees the special diet of one of her dogs: baked North Atlantic cod and rice congee with vegetables. If you home cook for your dog already, this could be a very straightforward solution.
  • Micha Michlewicz starts with a protein or fruit, perhaps some veggies, and then oat or rice flour as a binder. She too mentions that you can blend up your dog’s meals and make a paste for the tube.
  • Dr. Jenny LeMoine suggests boiled chicken breasts, thinned down with the broth, and some yogurt mixed in as an optional treat.
  • The tube on the left in the large photo at the top of the post has: 4 oz Neufchatel cheese, 1/2 oz peanut butter, and 1 oz skim milk. The one on the right has commercial cat food!

Crack for dogs.
Tripe: crack for dogs.

Other Tubes: Commercial or Do It Yourself

I really like the tubes like Coghlan’s with a screw top and clamp because they are so resistant to leaks and mess. I have used the same two tubes in agility for years and used them hard. I throw them ahead of my dogs and have never once had a leak or explosion. That being said, here are some alternatives. Readers, if you know of other tubes, let me know and I’ll add them.

  • GoToob+
  • Evriholder Dressing to Go
  • Used mustard or other condiment squeeze container. Denise Donnelly Zomisky has experimented with this: she says you need to play around with the texture of the filling.
  • A sandwich bag, sealed, with a lower corner cut off –suggested by a Fearful Dogs member
  • Re-used toothpaste tube–Anna Jane Grossman explains how in a Huffington Post article
  • Organic baby food in a pouch–a couple of people suggested this!
  • Here’s another food that’s already in a tube: Carly Loveless points out that in Norway you can buy flavored cream cheese in a tube. How cool is that? And bacon sounds like a nice flavor for a homemade version as well.

What do you put in your food tube?

Link to the silly movie for email subscribers.

Related Posts

The Secret to Quick, Non-Crumbly Homemade Dog Treats

How to Give Your Dog a Pill: Several Methods (including with a food tube)

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Eileenanddogs on YouTube

© Eileen Anderson 2014                                                                                                             eileenanddogs.com

The Secret to Quick Non-Crumbly Homemade Dog Treats

The Secret to Quick Non-Crumbly Homemade Dog Treats

And they stay that way.

The secret is to use tapioca flour.1)A reader has let me know that tapioca flour and tapioca starch are the same thing, and the latter is much cheaper. It can be found in most Asian markets and other stores as well. Thank you Lili! If you can wing it in the kitchen, read no farther. You’re on your way.

This is not usually a recipe blog, but it is definitely a concept blog. The concept here is that lots of high value brownie-type dog treats are crumbly and fall apart in your hand, treat bag, or pocket. Ewww. Especially if they are made with cornmeal, but even with wheat or most other flours.

Tapioca flour (or tapioca starch) is the trick. (It’s also grain free, for folks who care about that.) If it is expensive, you can experiment and cut it with some cheaper flour and see how far you can go. My other trick is that you can use all sorts of leftovers instead of one protein source for the treats, including that you can save the voluminous crumbs that many store-bought treats exude.

Here is the general method I follow for brownies.

Easy Brownies for Dogs

Puree in a food processor:

  • 1 cup raw or cooked protein (see some suggestions below)
  • 1-2 eggs, depending on the moistness of your other ingredients

Put the puree into a bowl and stir in:

  • About 1 cup tapioca flour/starch, or a mixture of tapioca and other flour. You may need more or less, depending on your protein sources.

Mix well. It will stay a little sticky, but if it is too sticky to handle, add more flour.  Toss it between your hands to make a patty and plot it into a greased pan. Bake at 350F for about 15-20  minutes. Longer if you used raw ingredients.

This is what went in mine (pictured below), just to give you some ideas:

  • 1/3 cup leftover meat from fajitas: beef, chicken, even a shrimp
  • a few french fries
  • 1/2 cup crumbs from commercial dog treats: mostly Natural Balance dog food roll and Stella and Chewies dehydrated raw treats, both of which crumble massively
  • 1 tablespoon leftover Parmesan cheese crumbs

The mixture I used above yielded brownies that actually smelled like bacon. I think that was from the smoky flavor of the Natural Balance dog food roll. It wasn’t a terrible smell, and the dogs loved them. I have also made some very mild ones with chicken breast and a dollop of peanut butter. Those even smell kind of good to me!

The very easiest version is to use a can of tuna or salmon. Usually in that case I would use just one egg. You still need to puree it.

Even with the high-priced tapioca flour, these are far cheaper than any commercial treats that are this high value. And so much more pleasant to carry around.

Here’s a photo essay on making my version of the brownies. Hah. These aren’t beautiful photos, and any food blogger would scoff at them. But hopefully they get the point across.

 

Thank you to Anita Gard, who provided the first recipe I saw that used tapioca flour. Her treats are more moist, even less crumbly (they are rubbery), and bake longer. Here is her recipe:

Liver Dog Treats

Ingredients:

  • Equal parts (by volume) raw chicken livers and tapioca starch/flour. For example, about 1 1/2 lbs livers and 2 cups of tapioca flour work well.
  • 2 TB oil

Method:

Put ingredients in a blender/food processor and blend until smooth. Line a cookie sheet (not a completely flat one; it needs edges) with parchment paper. Pour in the goop and spread it flat. It should be less than 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 300F for 30 minutes or until done.

Cool in pan. Then lift the whole thing out with the parchment paper. Flip it over onto a large cutting board and peel off the parchment. Use a pizza cutter to cut into appropriate sized treats for your dogs.

Any More?

Feel free to share your favorite dog treat recipes or methods!

Related Post

The Secret to Filling a Food Tube (a great way to deliver ultra-high value treats!)

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

 

Notes   [ + ]

1. A reader has let me know that tapioca flour and tapioca starch are the same thing, and the latter is much cheaper. It can be found in most Asian markets and other stores as well. Thank you Lili!
How I Count Out Training Treats for Three Dogs

How I Count Out Training Treats for Three Dogs

Thanks, Susan and associates!
Train us or just feed us!

When questioned about possible weight problems from training with food, we R+ trainers always say something like, “No problem! Just subtract the training calories from your dogs’ daily meals and it will work out!”

For me, that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Am I the only one for whom this is a problem? Sometimes I wonder before I publish these kinds of things exactly how many people are as compulsive as I am have situations similar to mine. But then I figure that the world is a big place, so perhaps this will help somebody out there.

Here’s my situation:

  • I have three dogs who vary in size, who all love to be trained;
  • I want everybody to have approximately the same number of reps in training;
  • I hate counting kibble; and
  • I don’t want to use all the dogs’ kibble for training.

And here’s is a graphic representation of the problem:

For each doggie meal, Clara gets a generous 1/2 cup, Summer gets 1/3 cup, and Zani gets 1/4 cup.

Clara's, Summer's, and Zani's meals
Clara’s, Summer’s, and Zani’s meals

So let’s say I want to take out 30 pieces of kibble from each for training. That will generally  let each dog work on one to three behaviors.

Look what happens to their meals:

Clara's, Summer's, and Zani's meals after training treats removed
Clara’s, Summer’s, and Zani’s meals after training treats removed

Poor Zani! It only puts a dent in Clara’s meal, it leaves a halfway decent amount for Summer, but Zani is left with less than half of her meal! That bugs me! One of the reasons I virtually always feed my dogs before training is that I don’t want them working on an empty stomach. And Zani may be littler, but it’s not fair taking away such a bigger percentage of her food!

But on the other hand, if I take away less of her meal, she gets fewer training reps than the other two.

And here I am still counting kibble.

Two-Part Solution

I finally figured out what to do.

1) Switch Zani to smaller kibble. I shopped around and found a comparable kibble with smaller, but not tiny bites. It’s nice for carrying around in my pocket for training treats, too. Here’s what their meals look like now, with approximately 30 pieces removed for training.

Clara's, Summer's, and Zani's Meals Adjusted
Clara’s, Summer’s, and Zani’s meals, training treats removed, after Zani’s food switch

So Zani has the same number of training reps as the others, but still has the majority of her meal intact. (Now Summer is the one who looks a little cheated, but I’m going to say this is the best I can do for now.)

2) Weigh the kibble, don’t count it. I don’t mind giving a plug for my trusty Oxo kitchen scale here. I switch it to grams for weighing kibble, since I can get a little more precision that way. Believe it or not, that’s 30 pieces of Zani’s new kibble on the scale. For me, weighing is a lot quicker than counting.

Weighing kibble
Weighing kibble on kitchen scale

Everybody’s different. Some people would never consider switching a dog’s food just to change kibble size. But this solution works for me because I tend to switch my dogs’ kibble around every once in a while anyway, just to make sure they are getting a variety of the lesser nutrients. So that doesn’t bother me. Plus none of mine has any particular digestive issues (knock on wood).

On days when I don’t plan any training, I can switch Zani back to the old kibble, or switch the other dogs to hers if I want. (Another consideration is whether the foods have a similar calorie count per volume or weight. Mine worked out to be close enough without any extra tinkering necessary.)

Sorry this doesn’t offer anything to the raw feeders, who have a whole different set of challenges.

I would love to hear from some folks with a bigger spread in their dogs’ weights. What do you all do?

Coming Up:

  • BarkBusters: Myths about Barking
  • Why Counterconditioning Didn’t “Work”
  • How Skilled are You at Ignoring? (Extinction Part 2)
  • Thesholds: The Movie!
  • What if Respondent Learning Didn’t Work?

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

How to Give Your Dog a Pill: Several Methods

How to Give Your Dog a Pill: Several Methods

Zani mainlining spray cheese
Zani mainlining spray cheese

Emergency Method: If you are currently in a struggle trying to administer a pill to a reluctant dog, try the multiple meatball method. The other techniques in this blog are specialized and probably won’t help in an emergency situation.

Link to the video on the multiple meatball method for email subscribers.

Longterm Training Method: If you are in the opposite situation and have the time to train your dog from scratch to take any kind of pill you need her to, without force or disguising the pill,  read my post on how I taught my dog to take a (plain) pill with positive reinforcement.  Also check out where I originally got the idea: Laura VanArendonk Baugh’s post “An Easy Pill to Swallow.”  In my opinion, this is the gold standard method.

Now that I’ve sent half of you away, is anybody still here? Following is the original inspiration for writing this post.

Administering Pills with Spray Cheese and Food Tubes

If your dogs already eat spray cheese sometimes, or will eat a moist mixture out of a food tube, this idea could save you some time and hassle. 

I realized a few months back that spray cheese extruding out of the can, as well as moist food exiting a squeeze tube, both make excellent “carriers” for pills.

Link to the video on giving pills with spray cheese and food tubes for e-mail subscribers.

My dog Summer takes a small thyroid pill twice a day, and having several options for administering it makes it easy. I often have a food tube with some leftovers from a training session in the refrigerator, and the spray cheese is a staple at my house. For Summer, it only takes a tiny bit.

We Can Train This

When I read Laura Baugh’s post on teaching a dog to take a pill, I was chagrined. Why had it never occurred to me that we could teach a dog to swallow pills just like we teach them other behaviors? Zoo and marine mammal trainers train this kind of thing all the time, so why not dogs? Most of the pill administration methods out there for dogs (including most of the ones linked in this post) depend on trying to disguise the pill. Older ones use plain old force to open the dog’s mouth and put the pill in, then hold the dog’s mouth closed. That’s unnecessary in this day and age.

So I really appreciate Laura’s post about training the behavior: An Easy Pill to Swallow. And I was delighted to find out how straightforward it was to train!

I haven’t had to put a bunch of energy into disguising pills over the years. My dogs have a huge reinforcement history for sucking cheese and other goodies out of gizmos and for eating gobs of peanut butter. They get these things daily whether they are taking pills or not. It doesn’t seem to be a big deal when there are pills present. Still, I’m glad that I finally got around to teaching Clara to take pills in a straightforward manner. It’s a useful behavior, whether I use it every time or not.

 More Good Tips

Donna Hill has a video with some great tips for giving pills: 4 Tips to Give Your Dog a Pill.

More inspiration for those of us teetering on the edge of training this behavior. See Michelle Chan shape her sheltie Juliet to take pills in one impressive, less than three minute session: Juliet Pops Pills.

And check out mymeowz blog: Here we have a cat getting trained to take pills. Can it get any better than that?

Kathy Sdao has a really nice article with information on all sorts of husbandry techniques: Husbandry Training for Dog Owners.

Nickala Squire points out that crunchy peanut butter disguises pills better than smooth. What a good observation! I’ve been using it ever since.

And Tegan Whalen suggests washing one’s hands between handling the pill and administering the treat. Another great idea.

Food Tube Info

Summer is ready for the food tube
Summer is ready for the food tube, pill or not!

I use food tubes for high value treats, both for Clara’s socialization sessions, where we do lots of counterconditioning, and in agility. I actually throw these tubes ahead of the running dog in agility, so they are tough. I’ve never had one come apart or have the lid or clamp pop off. I buy them online at REI. (Google “Coughlan squeeze tube” if that URL ever goes out of date.)

You don’t always have to use high calorie or high fat treats in them, either. I’ve made a mixture of pumpkin, low fat yogurt, and some peanut butter that my dogs really like. The trick is to get the right texture. If it’s too runny or not homogeneous, it will drip out of the tube and make a mess. If it’s too thick or has lumps, it won’t come out well. Experiment a little to find the Goldilocks point and you will be in business.

 Let me know if you try anything new, either from this post and the linked resources, or from something completely different. Especially if it works!

Coming up:

Eileenanddogs on YouTube

There is Hope: One Trainer’s Journey from Liverwurst to Kibble

There is Hope: One Trainer’s Journey from Liverwurst to Kibble

Recently on a dog training Yahoo group, a trainer wrote about needing to use hot dogs and lunch meat to train her dog. She was dismayed that her dog wouldn’t work for kibble. She asked the group if she was going to have to be cutting up hot dogs forever.

There were about 20 responses, all with suggestions for other high value treats that might be less messy or less expensive.

But, but, but…..that wasn’t the question! It was a great question! Not the old, “Am I going to have to carry treats forever?” question. (To which the answer is “yes” for most of us.) And not, “What are some good treats I can try?” Rather, it was, “Am I going to have to carry high value treats forever?”

I have an answer to this from personal experience.

I don’t have to anymore!

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Summer practicing “Lazy Leash” on the front porch for kibble

Not all the time, anyway. And that’s a huge improvement.

I have written about the value of treats before on this blog. In “Ant-Sized Treats” I described the experience I had when I learned that my treats were too small and hence not high enough value. I want to reiterate that the point of that post is not to prescribe a certain size or value of treat, but to urge everyone to pay attention to their dog, observe what works and doesn’t, and ignore prescriptions such as “eraser sized” or “the size of your little fingernail.” Your dog might need them bigger, or could be fine with them even smaller. You just need to observe to find out. I don’t want you to waste as much time as I did because I followed somebody else’s prescription and stuck with it for a long, long time, thinking my dog was just a little hopeless.

That experience built in some habits for me of using high value treats. This did wonders for both Summer’s and Zani’s agility performance, and made both of them, and Clara when she arrived, really enjoy our training sessions at home.

I have read many times, and even passed on to others, the recommendation to let dogs work for part of their kibble. But ever since I upgraded my dogs’ performance from lackluster, I had unconsciously written off that option for us. Rewarded behavior continues, right? I mean my own behavior! I was reinforced by great performances from my dogs when I gave lots of high value stuff. Why would I change? So instead of using part of their kibble, I habitually used higher value stuff. I decreased their meals when necessary to avoid over feeding.

Then one day on the Training Levels list I read a post by Sue Ailsby about how she was using part of her puppy Syn’s meals every day to teach a certain behavior and how fast it was going. I don’t know what was different for me that day; why I finally considered it. But for some reason I found myself wondering if there was a behavior for which kibble would get a good performance from my dogs. I was rehabbing Summer’s sit stay at the time, and I decided trying kibble couldn’t hurt. I mean, it’s a STAY, right? I loved the idea of not having to cut up treats Every. Single. Time. we trained.

I tried it and Summer stayed interested and motivated. I tried it on Zani. I tried it on Clara (who I had always figured, correctly, would work for about anything). Before I knew it  I was having daily training sessions with all three of them for part of one or both of their meals. Man, my treat life got easier!

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Zani staying away from food on the ground and keeping the leash lazy on the front porch for kibble

Hey folks, my dogs now work for kibble! With drive, motivation, and pizzazz! And I can prove it!

The following video shows Summer and Zani performing several of the Steps from Level 2 Lazy Leash from Sue Ailsby’s Training Levels. We had already practiced these in every room of my house, on my back porch, and in the back yard, and in the front room with the door open. But the front porch was still a big leap. And it was quite exciting out there, with joggers, neighbor dogs in their front yards, and next door neighbors out and about.

(Link to embedded video for email subscribers)

You really need to read the other post to get what a big deal this is. Summer is (was!) a hard dog to motivate, and has some behavioral issues that make lots of things extra hard for her. She is hypervigilant and anxious about quite a few things. Zani has a very steady temperament, but is a mix of breeds that are infamous for their independence and, er, hobbies. (She’s probably beagle, dachshund, JRT.) She’s also extremely friendly, so human distractions are very potent for her as well, just for a different reason.

Summer and Zani both now work with me in almost any environment with great attention for much lower value treats. Classical conditioning, transfer of value: whatever you want to call it, it happened to us. (Susan Garrett calls it “Being the Cookie.”) Working and partnering with me is a major focus of both of their lives and a major source of fun.

I no longer have to carry around the liverwurst, baby food, and tuna omelette that it took to get us to this point. Kibble, Natural Balance roll, and the occasional goldfish cracker will do. They still get high value stuff too though; I want their lives and training to be fun and interesting.

The last thing I want to do is let training get humdrum and for their performance to slide down into disinterest. I am not taking this new state of affairs for granted! I usually use the high value treats for brand new behaviors, high distraction environments, and behaviors that take a lot of energy expenditure. (For instance, when Summer and I went to the Rally Obedience trial last week I had not a kibble on me. Performing there was devilishly hard for her. I had salmon dog food in a squeeze bottle, baby food, and Natural Balance roll.) But sometimes they get the special stuff just as a nice surprise.

Clara works happily for kibble as well. (Clara would probably work well for cardboard.) But I also made a video of her doing something very challenging, incredible, actually, for kibble.

(Link to embedded video for email subscribers)

I know there are plenty of others out there with dogs that are a challenge to motivate. Here is a ray of hope. If you are currently having to use salmon or gorgonzola cheese or some other exotic, expensive, or messy treat: Keep with it. Do whatever it takes to build value for the activity for your dog. I think it’s safe to say that the more you do, the more likely you may not have to  forever.

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