This tip is probably one of my favorites because it's so quick and easy.
Even though I hear dog trainers, including my own, repeat this practical advice for squeezing in some training time, I get the impression that many people forget about it.
Or they don't think it will work? Maybe some people think it's mean to delay dinner for a desired behavior?
I'm not really sure if there's true resistance to this practice. I could just be reading too much into how often I hear it from trainers. But I'm jumping on this training tip bandwagon because it works!
Train while you prepare the meal
Have your dog practice stay or place while you prepare their food. Even if you're just pouring kibble into a bowl, you can require your dog to be still. I usually wash out their water bowl at meal time too, so I integrate that cleaning into the routine.
I used to require Bernie and Lizzie to be on place when I would make their breakfast or dinner. I supplement their kibble with various human foods, so I'm usually mixing in coconut oil, yogurt, or goat's milk. I have steps that I follow and the pups are incredibly patient now. Bernie usually hangs out in the living room until I call him. Lizzie settles into a calm down position and watches me.
Require certain behaviors to receive the meal
Before you put their food down, ask your dog to do something. I like to choose a behavior or trick that I'm trying to re-inforce.
When Bernie was around 18 months, he hit a stubborn streak combined with some selective listening, particularly regarding the cue down. It was like that cue was gone from his memory banks and he'd oh so slowly settle into a down when he realized that we wouldn't be doing anything else until he listened.
When I started requiring him to settle into a down before he got his dinner, he got faster quicker.
I would still vary up the required behavior. I would throw in a sit or shake/greet/paw, or look/look at me. If I had an extra minute or two, I'd require puppy pushups where Bernie would have to alternate between sit and down at least three times. The quicker he performed, the quicker he'd get his dinner.
Train while you eat
As a dog mom blogger who also works full-time, I frequently eat at my desk. However, on occasion I will eat with Matthew. Sometimes we get something especially delicious, usually take-out, and the dogs really want to be right on top of us.
While Matthew prepares the human food, I grab the dog beds or cots, put each pup on place with a chew toy, and turn on the CNN. (Matthew and I are both news junkies, so we find CNN soothing.) The pups get more practice with place and we get to eat our meal in peace.
One caveat here: If we get Zinburger, we each pull off a bit of the medium-rare burger and treat the dogs. You want to see Bernie McSquare do some lightning-fast enthusiastic puppy pushups? Hold up some Zinburger as his potential reward!