Most dog owners are familiar with treat dispensing toys, which have flooded the market since the popularity of the KONG®. While many owners use them simply as a way to keep their dog occupied, dog trainers have found them very useful in training – everything from house manners to agility.
They are GREAT for dogs that do not have a high play drive. If your dog is food motivate but not interested in toys, these items can be a great training tool to get them interested in tugging, fetching, and chasing.
Here are just a few treat dispensing toys and what they can be used for in your training.
These are the toys, like the traditional KONG, that your dog has to move, pick up, push, or have you open, to get the food out. These toys often use your dog’s mind, especially the puzzle toys, so they are great just for that reason. However, you can also add them to your training regime for added fun by your dog.
Tug and treat toys. Clean Run and Genuine Dog supply make a lot of these great toys that you can use as a reward for almost any training behavior. Many agility people use them after a run – the dog gets to play tug and then get a treat out of the toy. They are a high value reward for most dogs.
You can also use them for anything from asking for a sit to stay.
It is an excellent way to get your dog to have a super-fast recall because when he comes to you get three rewards: praise, play, and a treat.
Food-Filled Balls and Discs. If you have a dog that is not big on bringing the item back to you after fetch, use one of these. My youngest sheltie loves the chase and grab, but bringing it back to mom wasn’t very much fun. Until he found out that when he brought it back, I opened it and gave him a cookie. Now he flies at me. The Genuine Dog Gear Toss ‘N Treat is one I highly recommend.
This is also a great way to get dogs that won’t fetch or grab a toy to want to bite it because they smell like food.
There are a few automatic treat dispensers on the market, the most widely used are the ones by PetSafe. The older version, the Manners Minder®, was rather large and bulky, limiting where it could be used. Their new one, the Train N Praise, is smaller and more affordable. These are great for target training, because you do not have to be where the treats are being dispensed and you control remotely if a treat comes. Traditionally, if you left a pile of cookies as a target, your dog could just run over there and eat them without doing the behavior. This way, you control when he gets a reward.
Agility people have found them to be a great tool for obstacle training. Dog runs over the A-frame, hitting his contacts, and bam, with a hit of a button you can reward them right there at the bottom of the frame. This name principle can work for any target training you are doing. Maybe you want to teach your dog to go to a certain corner and sit when the door rings, you can do this easily with a remote trainer.
They work great for bark training. You can put it in the crate or room where your dog is, and then hit the button from the kitchen every once in a while as long as they stay quite. In Fact, PetSafe saw how well these work for bark training and came out with the AutoTrainer, the first positive reinforcement electronic bark collar system. When your dog is quiet, it dispenses treats; you don’t even have to be home! I have one and it’s awesome.
Teaching prolonged mat-stays. Working on a mat or bed stay? Want your dog to learn to stay put, even if you leave the room? Again, this trainer is perfect because you don’t have to keep going back to reward your dog.
There are many treat dispensing toys. Look around at what you have and then be creative about how you can use them in your training.
About the Author
Based in Wilsonville, Ore., animal lover Kristina N. Lotz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and works as a full time trainer. She also owns her own custom pet products company, A Fairytail House, where she makes personalized collars, leashes, beds, keepsake pillows and blankets, and anything else your imagine can think up. In her spare time, she trains and competes in herding, agility, obedience, rally, and conformation with her Shetland Sheepdogs. She smartly married a Veterinary Technician, who helps keep the fur kids happy and healthy, and provides a quick resource for articles.
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