Ditching The Dish & Using Food As A Motivator

I can’t remember even one case where I believed the ideal feeding arrangement for a dog to be one of free choice. Yes, it is less work to just fill the bowl with dry food once a day. It might be easier to put a feed sack around your child’s neck too and save yourself the trouble of fixing measured, well-timed meals!!!


If your dog is allowed to graze at will, you may not be able to respond to your veterinarian if asked how much and when does your dog eat. Free feeding also makes housebreaking more difficult since you don’t have the dog on an eat/elimination schedule. Your dog becoming overweight is another reason to monitor the quantity of kibble eaten. Last, but not least… most dogs are motivated by food. In other words, they will most likely “work for treats.”


I always remind clients that we humans work harder when we are a little bit broke. Dogs work better if they are a little bit hungry. I train dogs BEFORE they eat whenever possible. When training using positive methods, we are talking about using pleasant, motivating factors such as praise and treats to show the dog when it is performing an action that we want repeated.


Training treats

Taking this training strategy a step further, we become all the more important and attention-worthy if we have the dog’s daily allotment of food coming from our treat pouch or pocket. Naturally, this will be rather messy if we are feeding a raw meat diet. If you don’t want to feed kibble, a healthy alternative is Ziwi Peak Dog Food. It is very high quality and the pieces are 1/2″ square jerky-type morsels.



I have used this technique on dogs frequently, and it is most helpful when you have a dog that has trouble focusing. At times a dog’s anxiety will manifest itself in a way that resembles a passive resistive personality. Always putting yourself in the mind of the dog, you should seek to encourage and build confidence and trust. What better way to do this than by becoming the food source! Nothing is more exciting for a trainer than to reach a break-through with a challenging dog!

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One Response so far.

  1. I tried to do this when our littermates were puppies, but I didn’t stick to it. I don’t know if it was having two that made it hard or that I just wasn’t disciplined; probably a little of both.

    I got the tip in an Ian Dunbar book.

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