Dinner Bowl Protocol for Food-Only Dogs – Bad Dog Agility Academy

Dinner Bowl Protocol for Food-Only Dogs

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  • Angie G says:

    I have 3 dogs that get fed at the same time. I’d like to use the dinner bowl protocol for Grover, my 5 year old male. What is the optimal order of events? Should I prepare all 3 bowls, start the protocol with Grover. When he tugs then feed all 3? I do think I’m going to have to start out by secretly preparing the bowls otherwise if the other 2 know they’re there, Grover won’t concentrate on tugging at all. Advice?

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      You might have to try a couple of different ways, I think it’s okay to start out with secret preparation and see if that works. Let me know how it goes.

  • smkiiski16@gmail.com says:

    Hello! Do you show your dog that your making the food before starting to tug? Or should you make the food without your dog watching, start a game of tug and then give them the food?

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      Great question! It depends on the dog. If your dog gets overly excited when they see you PREPARE the food, then you may have to start with the food already done, and work up to including preparation. Eventually, my goal is to have a routine where the dog experiences anticipation–they may even look for the tug or bring it to you as soon as they see you preparing the food and moving it to the “training” area.

  • mr.ringosmail@gmail.com says:

    Hi. My Border Collie, Ringo, Loves to chase. A tennis ball is his most favorite thing in the world. If I use a tug toy, 99% of the time he just chases it and pounces on it. In the rare 1% that he has bitten the toy, he tugged with me shortly (while I watched in shock haha). I know Now that I should have really praised him when he did that, but I was too busy telling my teacher “hey look, he’s tugging!” Each time he has done that (which I can count on one hand) it has been right before his first run in class and he was really amped for it). The majority of the time (even when he is amped) it is chase chase pounce repeat, so what got him to do the tug those very few times, don’t know.

    Since he loves chase, he will ask me to throw toys, and he will chase them and retrieve them to me over and over (although not always into my hand which is another thing I need to work on).

    Last night when he asked me to play “throw the toy,” before I threw it I said “Get it” while holding it like this course taught us to hold it for tugging, and he lightly put his mouth on it, then released and he sat back and wanted me to throw it for him, which I did.

    So my questions are:
    Should I continue using the chase as his reward for mouthing/biting the toy and throw it for him after a bite?

    If so,
    Should I use a holee roller as the tug toy and the ball to chase (since he loves balls)?

    Or should I have one tug that stays with me and then throw the higher value toy as a reward for him to chase?

    I do realize that I would have to gradually increase the criteria before I throw, and that a self-release doesn’t get a reward (like I did last night).

    Another thing to note is that even when he is playing with the other dogs and they are tugging with each other, he just lightly bites the toy and doesn’t tug with them either. He is a sensitive little guy, and more of a “thinker” than a “driver”, just fyi.

    Thank you!

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      This is a win-win option for you, either one of them could work, so let’s start by aiming for a moment of tugging, and when the dog is pulling hard even if just for one second, say yes, and throw a SECOND toy or ball for the dog (not the one he’s tugging on). Basically, you’re substituting a ball throw for the dinner bowl.

      At the same time (in a different session) play with the holee roller and see if he likes chasing it and tugging with it, anytime he tugs with you, praise him, but our goal here is a retrieve to hand rather than laying it at your feet because when they bring it to hand, you have the option of tugging with him for a moment and then cueing the release, and then throwing it again, so you have a dog that chases, retrieves, tugs briefly, and repeats.

      • mr.ringosmail@gmail.com says:

        Okay, so his tugging is a rare event. I think Bigfoot has been spotted more often. So do I start with a bite, then a bite and hold, then a bite hold and let me pet him backwards? I tried the muzzle grab and he immediately let go. Apparently he was not a fan of that…

        • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

          Muzzle grabs are for later after your dog can give you sustained tugging. Right now, focus on getting the tug behavior and marking it with a throw. You can go back to a toy on a long line and reel your dog in like a fish and mark before he lets go and then throw ball as reward.

          • mr.ringosmail@gmail.com says:

            Okay, I will give that a try! I will also get video of the sessions so you can evaluate. Thank you!!

  • sharon says:

    On Day 4 of the food bowl protocol with Sparky I gave up on using just the toy and tried putting some Fresh Pet inside the hollee-roller. Day 5 I tried presenting a treat stick and he finally did a bite. How should I progress from here. This video is day 4 and 5 for Sparky. https://youtu.be/A9dQ-9pGOWk

    I also tried the dinner bowl protocol with Toby. Day 1 was a lot like the demo video. I think I tried at least 6 different toys over about 4 1/2 minutes. I finally got a touch so I marked and gave him his food. https://youtu.be/ZgSfqaHlOcs On day 5, I marked when he grabbed the toy and he immediately dropped it. I gave him his food. https://youtu.be/eKEoFkzdVCc Do I need to wait for a longer tug before I mark? He did pretty well, so now do I keep doing the food bowl protocol or see if he will grab with out the food right there? Should I just stick with his progress using the hollee-roller?

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      Nice work! With Sparky, I think your encouragement is too similar to praise, and I’d try to get the dog biting any toy and the moment they pick it up in their mouth, click and give them the dinner. If that’s not working, I’d stop the protocol and go back to engaging with other toys. I also like using the treat stick for a few days (that looked good in the video) so he gets used to the idea of fighting with you for something and seeing that nothing bad happens. Then you can upgrade to a rawhide stick and encourage him to tug with you on that and then let him win the rawhide.

      For Toby, that looked great. Don’t worry about duration, but instead focus on the quality of the tugging. Remember if he lets go before you mark, no dinner, he has to be tugging when you mark and then he gets dinner (you did this perfectly but in future sessions as you try to shape him to tug harder or longer he will let go at times, expecting dinner). You can also keep working on tugging aside from the dinner bowl as well, during other parts of the day.

  • sharon says:

    I am going to try this with Toby and Sparky. Neither is strongly food motivated either. (They don’t really like their kibble and frequently won’t eat much for 2 or 3 meals. I will put a little fresh pet in there to get them started. This time I also crumbled a little chicken in the dish to make it more desirable.) I’m going to try it for Toby too because I haven’t been getting anything from him since the video I sent a few days ago. Today was Day 1. Is it OK to give the food if he just touches the toy on day 1, or should I hold out for a grab? For Toby I marked and gave the food when he finally touched the toy. Sparky won’t even touch it. He barely looks at it, so I’m waiting a half hour and I’ll try again. I tried several toys as shown in the demo video. How long should I keep trying before I decide to wait the half hour to try again?

    • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

      I wouldn’t try more than 5 minutes in general, and I personally probably never tried for more than 2 minutes. Yes, it’s okay to start with just a touch, just make sure you’re progressing or the dog gets “stuck” and will offer only the touch. As the dog gets frustrated, they usually try more behaviors to get the food bowl.

      • sharon says:

        Thank you. I’ll try to wait for a bite tomorrow. This evening I switched balls on Toby and was surprised he retrieved a mini Hollee-Roller. When He brings his ball back to me, he likes to tug it before I throw it again. So I tied a short piece of fleece to the ball and threw it that way. I was surprised he actually brought it back to me and did some really good tugging with it. He even did the weight shift back thing a few times. He will let go when I hold the ball still, but will not re-bite unless I throw it. It was fun tugging with the little ball and string, but I still can’t get him to bite it if I’m already holding it. (I did not get a video of this session as it was spontaneous.) I’m hoping the food bowl idea will eventually work.

        • Esteban Fernandezlopez says:

          That’s great! Use the holee roller for your tugging work now. Let me know how it goes.

          • sharon says:

            I tried the hollee roller again this morning. I almost gave up. It took about 5 throws before Toby would get it and bring it back. (Usually we play fetch with his squishy ball in the morning and that’s what he wanted.) Once he brought the holee roller back (the one with about a 3″ fleece strip tied to it) he did some good tugging. Had his first re-bite one time when he lost his grip and grabbed again. I did mark with a “yes” and praised him a lot. A little later I tried popping the toy to floor for him to bite while I was still holding it. To my surprise, he grabbed and we tugged a little more. Also his first time to grab the toy without me throwing it for him to fetch. While tugging, I had to do some fake letting him win by moving in a zig zag to keep some tension on the short piece of “rope” while moving towards him so he would back up. I’ll see if he will do it again for a video later today. I’m so happy, he seems to be making progress. Thank you for the help. I think there is hope.

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