KONG Tips for Training Your Dog at Home
Thursday, June 18th, 2020
By KONG training specialist Ana Verissimo
Now that you are home with your dog more, you can practice some things to improve the quality of life for you, your family and your dog.
FIRST AND FOREMOST: Teach your dog to be alone when you are home, so he will not feel sad or abandoned when you return to work.
KONG CAN HELP WITH THIS: Fill a KONG, with your pet’s favorite food or treats. It must be something that they really love for them to want to have it all by themselves. Choose a special area in the house, put their favorite bed or mat there, give them a down command and give them their KONG. If your dog is a KONG beginner, hold the KONG in front of them and hype it up to make sure they know how cool and special of a treat it is. Then leave them to enjoy! If they pick up the KONG and follow you, just take the KONG from them, return it to their special place, repeat the down command and wait until they start to eat from it. Leave again. Soon your pup will realize that to have their delicious KONG they will need to stay in their comfy place and realize hanging out by themselves can be delicious too! This can also transfer to crate training and making the crate a safe and special place to be.
FUN AND HELPFUL TRAINING TIPS:
RECALL GAME! Choose a specific treat for this game. It must be something special and different that your dog truly loves. Game rules: Only call your dog’s name once, and once only, followed by come! You can pat your thigh, stamp your foot on the floor, whistle, make other sounds, and even go get them and bring them back to where you were, with the treat on their nose. Only let them have the treat when you get back to your original position. Playing this game with other members of the family will challenge your pet further. Start with a small circle, and everyone has a chance to do it; slowly make the circle larger, until each person is in a different part of the house calling him. This will teach your dog to come, and strengthen their recall when outside, if they already come when called.
WAIT! This is such a simple thing, very easy to teach and so helpful in so many situations. All your pup needs to do is hold their position for a few seconds before you do anything with them: Say the word “wait”, but just once, you can use an open hand in front of their face as a signal to help as well. You can use this training tool before giving their food, a KONG, opening the door to go for walk, jumping on sofa, or getting in or out of the car. As long as your dog waits a few seconds, they can get what they want: his food, his toy, going out, jumping in the car. To have a solid “wait”, increase the time in seconds, and your pup will be glued to the ground when you ask him to wait.
DROP IT! You will need a treat and their favorite toy for this one. Ask your dog to sit and wait and throw a toy for them to catch. When he comes back with the toy, place a treat over their nose and ask them to drop the toy! When they drop the toy, give them the treat, take the toy, and throw it again. With this game your dog learns that they can give away their toy and get something delicious, and still have their toy back, so they will be always willing to drop it, with no concerns.
FIND IT! This is an entertaining way to feed your dog, and so easy to teach. Place small amounts of their kibble in very easy to find places. Ask your dog to find it and help find it. When they do, tell them “found it!” Praise your pup until they find them all. Eventually place the kibble in more challenging spots, and soon they will go find it all by themselves. You can use this game to feed your dog when you leave to go to work with a frozen KONG. Dogs LOVE this treasure hunt game, just like we do!
GO AROUND! - This game is valuable for dogs that get too excited when they see other dogs on a walk. It is easy to turn around and go in the other direction. Have treats ready and let the game begin. Have a treat in your hand and use it to move your dog to the side that they usually walk on with you. You are going to turn into your dog, passing in front of them to block their frontal view. While you turn, say “around!” as they follow your hand. Give the treat after a half turn. Repeat this exercise 3 times with a treat, then try with an empty hand and give a treat when you complete the turn. You can do this with a leash on and see how it can be useful during your walks.
GO TO MAT! - This is extremely useful in so many situations. This can easily be done using a KONG. Give it to him always on a mat or bed. Have treats and a KONG ready for this one. Call your dog to come next to their bed, have them sit and wait. With a treat in your hand, swing your arm in the direction of the bed and say “go to mat” as you throw the treat on their bed. Once there, do a down command and give another treat. Then throw a treat away from the bed for them to go get it; call them back and repeat the same exercise. For the last trial, when you command down on the mat, instead of the treat give them the KONG. To advance the exercise, slowly increase the distance from the bed. You have a routine that you can take everywhere you go with your dog.
All of these tips and tricks you can do with your pet at home! Training may be time consuming, but it’s worth it!