Sunday, August 30, 2015

Do food reinforcers make a dog fat?

Not if they are cut into small pieces and the human manages the portion size at meal time.
Viva needs to lose about 3 pounds (she was 19lbs when she came into foster care) and remember we've been using lots of food reinforcers.  She is fed twice a day and I always measure out her food.  I'm currently feeding her 1/4 cup of kibble twice a day.
That's a flat 1/4 cup

There are 53 pieces of kibble in a 1/4 cup.  That 53 times - twice a day,  that I can use to reinforce behavior.
Here's the hotdogs and cheese we've been using as high reinforcers. 
Below is the actual size and really the cheese could be cut smaller

Viva is adjusting well and everyone is sharing space so, I've now stepped down the reinforcer. Meaning the actual reinforcer (not by much and what I use, they are still pretty high value to all dogs) and then frequency.  When she first came to us, she was reinforced every time she was with Catty and D'light and anytime she was giving the behaviors of ignoring them and looking away.  Now she does this on her own. She is still reinforced randomly for the above behaviors but, it's way less than when she first arrived. 
With Viva, I'm now using a variety of food reinforcers and what I chose depends on what behavior I'm asking of her.  If I'm asking her to do something that she's really good at (like sit) I may use her meal kibble.  If I'm asking her for a more complex behavior like "look", then I will use a higher value food like bison lung.  And if I'm asking for a behavior that is still hard for I will bring out the big food guns of hot dogs or cheese.  

Here's a great blog The Importance of a Paycheck
I use all protein treats that are broken down into small pieces. Dogs don't know that they are getting a small piece or a large piece - they just knows they are getting a very tasty reinforce.
I also like offering a variety as I can see what the dog likes, doesn't like and what's their favorite. Viva's favorites are bison lung and  haddock.
Below you can see the original size of the food and then how I've broken it down.  I can get a good amount from the "standard size".  The only one that I don't break down is the haddock.
Thank you to our Northwest Adoption Coordinator for helping me with the above picture!
The majority of what I use is from Boulder Dog (you can buy it through Amazon)

Stinky Beef Tripe from Evanger's (can buy it through Amazon)
The haddock is from The Honest Kitchen (can purchase it through Amazon)

So again, up to the human to manage the food intake!
Oh and if your dog eats something other than kibble you can still do all of the above.  Catty and D'light eat raw food and we've had foster dogs eating Honest Kitchen and I've still applied all of the above.  In fact our last foster dog with lots of behavioral issues was Seven (I'll be talking about him again) and he was eating Honest Kitchen.  He and I did a ton of training similar to Viva and he also lost 2lbs that he needed to lose, while with us.
Another piece to this is also exercise.  All three dogs get a lot of walking which helps to burn calories in addition to many other benefits.  Right now I'm burning a lot of calories since I can't walk all three together.  Viva gets walked solo and then D'light and Catty are walked together.

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