At times we dog owners tend to focus on what our dogs are doing “wrong” (by our definition) rather than what they’re doing right. This game with a purpose is great practice in paying attention to your dog and reinforcing behaviors you like.
Day 1: Count out 5 nonperishable treats and place them in a bowl. Put the bowl somewhere convenient, but not where your dog can get it! If Fido gets excited watching you do this, just put the bowl somewhere and leave it alone until the dog forgets about it or isn’t hanging around it anymore.
While Fido is just hanging out being a dog, notice something good he is doing. Without drawing attention to what you’re doing, get a treat from the bowl, walk calmly over to Fido, say “Goooood boy” in a calm voice and deliver the treat, as long as Fido is still doing something you like. In other words, you are rewarding something that Fido has chosen to do; not something you have asked him to do.
Goal: Give out all 5 treats in the course of the day.
Day 2: Count out 8 treats and proceed as in Day 1.
Day 3: 10-12 treats
Day 4: 12-15 treats
Day 5: 15-20 treats
Day 6 and beyond: Randomly choose a number of treats to count out. Your goal is to reward your dog that many times in the day, using the instructions in Day 1. Always say, “Gooood boy,” but start skipping the treats now and then. Eventually there can be more instances of “Gooood boy” than treats, but continue to give out treats every so often to keep your dog guessing.
Benefits of the game: You learn to closely observe your dog, recognize and reward good behavior, and the dog has a great time getting treats! Yum! Make some notes of the great things your dog CHOOSES to do all by himself!