Introducing food toys

What about food toys?

You’ll notice we haven’t used food toys to date. There’s a reason! Food toys can be a distraction for a dog who is anxious about being left alone, but we know that distractions in dog training do not work to change behaviour – they merely distract. Imagine that! 

Now that you’ve built your dog up to an appreciable amount of time, you can consider adding food toys in to long absences so that they have something to do and don’t get bored. The catch, is that these food toys might be emotionally poisoned. Perhaps you used to stuff a Kong with peanut butter and leave your dog and they ignored it due to stress. Every time they see a PB-stuffed Kong, they start to feel that anxiety building because that means you’re leaving! 

We can reverse this and it’s not too hard. Start out by creating the most amazing stuffed Kong imaginable. (Need ideas? Click here for toy ideas and click here for stuffing ideas.) Give this to them while you are home. Sit on the couch and watch TV. Work at your computer. Do the dishes. Make a phone call. Have a nap. Do anything but leave. Do this for two weeks to build that trust back up and then you might be able to add that Kong in during the warm-up steps and leave them with it for the longer duration.

For the first little while, only give the Kong during guaranteed successful missions, meaning, don’t give the Kong and then leave for a little longer than you would. We have to relax one criterion when we raise another. 

That should do the trick. If your dog refuses the Kong or it causes stress, don’t use it during absences at all. It’s okay – it’s not for all dogs!

Click “NEXT LESSON” to learn about behaviour modification medications and watch an interview with Dr. Sagi Denenberg – our Veterinary Behaviourist. 

Lessons in this Course: