TIP #1: WORKOUTS FOR THE BRAIN
Biologically speaking, your dog is not supposed to have a bowl of kibble plunked down in front of him. He is a hunter by nature, meant to work for his keep. Mimic this by serving your dog’s food in a Kong or treat ball. Your dog will spend the first part of the day figuring out how to get at his food and the rest of it recovering from the mental effort. Perfect!
Toys are a great way to engage your dog’s brain. Dogs have distinctly individual toy preferences, depending on the day, time, and situation. Do some detective work and find out what truly tickles your dog.
The best toys have a purpose. They deliver food, present a challenge, squeak, or make themselves interesting in some other way. Some classics to consider: Rope toys, plush toys (with or without squeakers), Hide-A-Bee (Squirrel, Bird), tricky treat balls, soft rubber toys (vinyl), and hard rubber toys like Kongs and nyla bones.
Once you have a good selection, develop a toy strategy. Designate a popular toy for use only during alone time, like when you need to leave your dog in his crate, confinement area, or a spare room. Then, rotate the other toys daily to keep the novelty factor high.
TIP #2: MATCHING LAW
The choices we make are the direct result of a number of variables, such as the rate of reinforcement (how many times we’ve been reinforced for the behavior), the quality of the reinforcement (how much did we appreciate that reinforcement), or the reinforcement delay (how soon did we get the reinforcement). If you were paid $1,000 for every phone call you had to make, would you still chose to walk your dog over calling a difficult client? According to the matching law, the chances of choosing one behavior over another are the direct equivalent of how much those behaviors have been reinforced. In other words, faced with two options, A and B, if A was reinforced twice as much as B, we would chose option A twice as often as we would chose option B. Let’s say your dog got clicked and treated 10 times when sitting at a 90° angle from your body and 5 times when sitting parallel in good alignment. As a result, when asked to ‘sit’, your dog would be twice as likely to sit at a 90° angle.
- Dr. Jennifer Cattet
Jeff Dentler, CPDT-KA, FFCP, CTDI