Where’s Your Dinner Game
This game is an easy and simple way to build a bit of independence and confidence in a puppy or a new dog. It is based on free choice on the dog’s part and can be adapted in any number of ways as their confidence builds.
It requires two people and a bowl of food!
- One person holds the puppy at one end of the room while the other places their bowl of food down at the far end of the room, and then quickly returns to the puppy.
- Puppy is quickly released (this is not about teaching a wait!) to go and find their food, which is easy to do as they can see it!
- Humans stay put where the puppy left them!
The puppy now chooses to go away from her humans, to get to her food. She is rewarded for making this choice by getting her bowl of food. If she turns to look, or chooses to return, her people are exactly where she left them. This builds confidence and trust, and it’s simple to do.
To adapt this game, as your puppy gets bolder, you can now pop the bowl down just out of sight – around the corner of the sofa or just around an open doorway. The aim now is that puppy has their head out of sight as they eat. They can still check back and see you, or return to you at any point.
If your puppy does check back, that’s fine. If they check, come away from a full bowl to find you, and do not return quickly to eat the rest of their meal, then scale the game back so it’s a bit easier again for a few days.
Once your puppy can put their head out of sight of you and eat, the next step is to put the bowl where the puppy must go completely out of sight. Again, the same rules apply. You stay still. If puppy checks and carries on eating, that’s fine. If they come back to you and won’t go finish their meal, you need to scale back.
Eventually, you should be able to have your puppy go and find their bowl around the house, eat the meal at a normal pace (you might want to use pet cameras in the early stages!) and come back to find you. If they are still toilet training, you may want one of the people playing the game to go find the puppy as they finish to prevent any accidents!
Now you can adapt the game further to include treats, toys, food dispensing puzzles, and various rooms upstairs or out in the garden.
Eventually, you can add a cue such as ‘find it’ to this game and use it on walks to find family members in a game of hide and seek or to find hidden toys or patches of scattered treats.
This game, and The Flitting Game, are the preparatory stages for building your dog’s confidence and sense of security. Together with careful management and avoiding leaving your dog alone before they can cope, these are the foundations for preventing separation anxiety related problems.
About the Author
This article is taken from the book “Dog Training and Behaviour Solutions” brought to you by the professional team behind the Facebook group Dog Training Advice and Support (DTAS)
Emma Judson has been a dog training and behaviour consultant for over 20 years, and is an ABTC registered practitioner, a qualified ATI with the Professional Association of Canine Trainers and a full member of the Pet Professional Guild.