Cheese Makes Everything Better

Contrary to the title, this post isn't really about cheese; it is about and reducing stress and relationship building. There is a lot of discussion about "emotional eating" for people, usually with the implication that it is bad. But eating really does decrease stress. We can use this with our dogs (and ourselves), the trick is to do it mindfully in a way that really does help with the stress. For myself, that means choosing something I like eating and eating it slowly. My dogs aren't very good at eating slowly. But I can feed them slowly in a calm manner that doesn't work them up. When I notice that they are having a bad day or have had a lot of stress recently, I'll sit down with them in a relaxed manner and just feed them their meal a bit at a time. They don't need to "work for it", they just get it because they need to eat in a low stress way.

What does all this have to do with the title? For Max, his favorite stress eating food is cheese. His life motto seems to be "Cheese Makes Everything Better."

High Value Rewards

When you are training or counter conditioning, you want to reward behaviour you like. All of us, dogs included, value different things differently. If you want to reward someone, knowing what they like is important. Keeping track of what your dog's favorite treats and relative value and passing them out accordingly is important in training and having a good relationship. Being asked to work really hard and then being paid 1 cent is particularly demoralizing if you are regularly paid hundreds of dollars for something easy. Think how you would feel about a friend who kept wanting to go out to dinner somewhere you hated. Providing higher value treats for more difficult work and mixing things up so they stay enjoyable is just good sense when you look at it that way.

Max's current highest value treat is Feline Pill Pockets. He takes 2 pills a day and we use those 2 opportunities for something special - that might be something hard and it might just be taking some time together to enjoy a good treat.

What are your dogs highest value treats?

Is Kibble Rewarding?

Food treats are a common reward, of course. But there is a whole wealth of food available. When using food as a treat, it is important to use food your dog values. A lot of people say that you shouldn't use kibble as a reward, but if it is sufficiently rewarding for your dog, then it's a great reward. When your dog is distracted, then they might need something they like better (then again, maybe your dog thinks kibble is the best thing ever.) All of my dogs have found kibble quite rewarding, but sometimes they liked other foods better. I think kibble tends to be more rewarding for my dogs because I rarely just give them a bowl of kibble, they get it as part of a game or as training treats. Also, I tend to have more than one variety of kibble on hand, to mix it up a little. Pico had dental problems, so I used dental kibble as one of her treats (she really liked it.) I've used the cat dental kibble a lot for training, it is more flavorful and smaller, so it can be eaten more quickly.