SDOS Episode 20 – Why its cool to use food when training your dog


Episode 20 – It’s Chrissssstmasssss on the Superhero Dog Owners Show, well almost Christmas anyway. Dom and Alex have come indoors for a fireside show and as it’s the season of eating and drinking they are talking about food and specifically how you feed your dog. You will learn why you should pay rather than feed your dog, how to entertain and train your dog using food and why you shouldn’t give your dog a bone. So stoke the fire and sit back with a glass of sherry while you enjoy the show!

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Dom:     Hello. Ho, ho, me bonny bairns, and welcome to Episode 20 of The Superhero Dog Owners Show. We’re joined, as ever, by Alex video guy.

Alex:      Hello, everyone. Merry Christmas.

Dom:     Who is hands free today.

Alex:      Hands free, yes.

Dom:     Nice, brilliant. And Sydney cocker has decided to join us and jump on my knee. How long this will last we don’t know.

Alex:      Until he gets one of them mince pies, I think.

Dom:     Definitely, yeah, he might try and snaffle one.

We’ve decamped from the van, and I’ve fulfilled my promise to bring Alex indoors.

Alex:      Yes.

Dom:     The fire’s going. We’ve tried to make it a bit festive for you. It’s the night … It’s not the night before Christmas. It’s the night before, the night before, the night before Christmas.

Alex:      It’s getting closer.

Dom:     It’s the 22nd. Leave it. We’re here. Alex has got an OJ. I’ve got a little dram of whiskey, and we’ve got some mince pies, which we’re going to try and keep away from Sydney. What I thought we’d do is, we haven’t got a guest this week.

Alex:      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dom:     Everyone’s busy buying presents and wrapping them and stuff.

Alex:      Yep.

Dom:     So what I thought we’d do is, I thought we’d have a little bit of a chat, me and you, a little fireside chat, about … You know, Christmas is typically a time when we, to put it bluntly, we stuff our faces, don’t we?

Alex:      Right.  Don’t we half, yeah, just a bit.

Dom:     You know it’s nice, too. It’s really nice to, you know, you have your Christmas dinner and we’re quite fond of the homemade chocolate log in this house.

Alex:      Oh, lovely.

Dom:     Which isn’t here yet, unfortunately. Just generally we tend to eat a lot more, don’t we? And drink a lot more as well.

Alex:      Yes.

Dom:     I was trying to think … But I thought, why don’t we have a chat about food, because there’ll be some things, some tips that we can give the boys and girls watching at home, things that they can do with their dog’s food to maybe make life a little bit more interesting for the dog, or to maybe just get a little bit more control of their dogs, and just generally so we’re not wasting the food as much.

Alex:      Yeah, because I would imagine that most pack dog owners, most dogs at this time of year are very much like us, and just tend to put the food in the dog’s mouth without really thinking. “We’ll treat the dog. It’s Christmas.” There’s also lots of food.

Dom:     Yeah, “You want leftovers don’t you?”

Alex:      Yeah, you know, if you want do .

Dom:     Yeah, I feed my dog’s leftovers. I know some people that don’t, but a lot of people do. I think it’s a shame not to waste food.

Alex:      Definitely.

Dom:     Certainly, little Sydney likes leftovers. He’ll eat just about anything really that we put in front of him, dead or alive. It’s true. Yeah, I just thought, obviously, while we’re stuffing our faces, it’s very tempting to just shove everything in the dog’s bowl, the leftovers as well, so the dog’s going to be overeating a little bit. With just a little bit of thought and a couple of ideas, we can make life a lot more interesting for the dogs.

Alex:      Yes, mm-hmm (affirmative). So how are we going to do that, though.

Dom:     Well, the first thing that I think you need to think about is the safety of your dog, yeah? It’s very tempting when we’ve got a great big turkey or a goose or a chicken even, and we’ve got leftovers, to just say, “Awesome. There’s the main bits, there’s the breast, there’s the leg, mate, and we’ll give the rest to the dog,” you know?

Alex:      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dom:     You should do that, definitely, but you should make sure that you strip your bird first. Oh, goodness. I went off on one there, didn’t I? So you strip the bird of all of the meat first, yeah? And you make sure that you do not give your dogs any bones.

Alex:      Yes.

Dom:     Because cooked bones, especially, like bird bones, they can splinter in the dog’s stomach, and they can cut the lining or get jammed in their throat.

Alex:      Nasty.

Dom:     I have a friend, Rachel Bean, who we’ve had on the podcast, she’ll be calling up again on the podcast. She was telling us how dangerous it is to be feeding your dogs bones, cooked bones, especially. Any cooked bones, do not give them to the dog. As tempting as it might be because you don’t want to waste it, or maybe you’ve done it before. In the past, I’ve unwittingly given my dog cooked bones because I haven’t been aware of the dangers, but you don’t want this to be the one time that something bad happens.

Alex:      No, exactly. Yeah.

Dom:     So safety first with the things that you’re feeding your dogs all the time. Then I think what you might want to think about is how you’re feeding your dog, and are you feeding you dog or are you paying your dog.

Alex:      I’ve heard you mention this before, and it was something that just like clicked when you said it. I was like, “Oh yeah,” because it is so easy to just feed the dog and forget about it.

Dom:     Definitely.

Alex:      But if you think of it more as your dog has a job and you’re paying him for it, it’s better for both of you, isn’t it?

Dom:     Definitely, definitely. Most people … Well, not most, but a lot of dog owners, and I was the same. Traditionally I would have fed my dog a scoop of food on a morning, a scoop of food on a night, and the dog might have picked at it or ate it when he was hungry. For many dogs, it really is like a precious, precious resource for me. Actually Alex, I believe we shot a little video, didn’t we? With Barry and Sydney talking about feeding not paying their dogs.

Alex:      We did. We did, because their wages were different, because we were kind of talking … You were talking about whether your dog would prefer food as a reward or toys, so we see little Sydney much preferred the tennis ball-

Dom:     Yeah.

Alex:      And Barry was after his Yorkshire puddings. His favourite Yorkshire puddings.

Dom:     That’s right. Shall we roll that tape?

Alex:      Yeah, let’s have a look, shall we?

Dom:     Sit. Go get me a paper. Go on. Go on, go get the paper. Good boy, come on. That’s a good boy, thank you. Good boy. Barry needs this, doesn’t he. Come on.

Are you feeding your dog, or are you paying him? And what is the difference. I like to make dog training as easy as I can, and for me, because I’m lazy, and for you, too, so that it’s easy for you to do. There’ll be a number of things that you give your dog during the day, be that toys, treats, or affection, whatever it is. You probably give your dog those things for free. That’s totally fine. We can do that. But if you’re having problems with your dog, or you’re out on a walk or when you take him to the park or maybe it’s when people come to visit the house, and you struggle to get his attention, then it would be a great idea to use the things that he likes to pay him for being good for you in a situation where he wouldn’t normally be good. That’s where paying comes in, because I like to pay my dogs for doing stuff for me.

Let’s imagine for a minute that Barry was looking for a job, and the definition of a job would be that Barry was going to perform a regular task or action, and he gets paid for it. When Barry’s looking through the newspaper that he’s bought with the jobs in it on a Thursday, the type of job that’s going to appeal to Barry is going to be different from the type of job that might appeal to Sydney, because Barry’s going to be rewarded by one thing and Sidney’s going to be rewarded by something completely different. Once you know what your dog likes, then you can ask him to do stuff for you, give him a job, to get the reward that he wants.

Barry’s wages would obviously be Yorkshire puddings. Good boy. And Sydney’s wages are something completely different. This is something that Sydney’s very, very interested in. Isn’t it Sydney? What’s this? Yeah, yeah. Ooo, yay. Good boy. When I have something that I know Sydney really, really likes, I can use this to help me when I go outside with him, yeah? To keep him more interested in me.

Shall we go? Shall we go to the beach? Come on. Good boy. So instead of just leaving the tennis ball lying around on the floor, I can use it to play with Sydney somewhere like at the beach. I’ve got his attention and I know he’s not going to run away from me. Don’t we, Sydney? Yes, we do.

Yeah. Back. Good boy. Run in back. Yeah. Again, and again. Good boy. Yes.

Speaker 3:           Henry, come on.

Dom:     If you have something that’s really, really high value to your dog that you’re currently just giving him for free, then you might want to think about paying him with it instead and help you to make your life a little bit easier with it.

So that was a little video that we shot a little while back in our old house when we had Barry around as well. Obviously, we’ve lost him this year. That took a bit of getting over, and we’re still getting over it, really. Sydney’s over it, but I don’t think me and Beth are. Yeah, but it’s really, really important and something that you wouldn’t normally think about.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     But if you think about it in a different way. If you turned up for work, Alex, and there was a bag of money in the foyer of the office where you worked and it just said like, “Help yourself.”

Alex:      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dom:     You’d probably be more likely to help yourself and then go home and not do any work.

Alex:      Yeah, the easy option.

Dom:     Yeah, of course. Anybody would. I certainly would anyway. I’m really lazy. That’s one way people can think about trying to use the food a bit differently. Even if you just stop your dog from grazing maybe. Stop leaving the bowls down with food in it all the time, and then maybe just put the food down for your dog when you think he might be hungry, and then just before you put the food down, think to yourself, “What else could I be using this food for rather than just giving it to my dog for nothing.”

Another way you could use that would be to try and to fix some of the problems you have with your dog. If your dog was doing something like he gets too excited when grandma comes to visit, and he’s always knocking her over. That would be a perfect time to use his food to get him to do a sit or to scatter it on the floor and let him find it, and he’ll be doing something else rather than knocking over grandma.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     That’s what I’m trying to do with this. I’m trying to get people to think a little bit more about just other ways they can use the food. Maybe if you had a dog who when you let him out the back to go and have a wee-wee, you couldn’t get him to come back in the house again. You could maybe just drop a bit of his food, show him his bowl, drop a bit of tasty food in his bowl as you let him out for a wee, and then you can bet your bottom dollar that as soon as he’s finished he’ll come racing back in to get the thing that he wanted out of the bowl.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     Again, this is just tiny little things, but they can make a big difference to people. We can also use this outside. So if your dog was always misbehaving in the park, he didn’t never come back to you. You ended up just standing there with the leash in your hand, shouting your head off, getting more and more frustrated, instead of eating in, you could have takeout. You could have a takeaway. You could take the food with you, stick it in a poo bag or in a little bag. An empty poo bag.

Alex:      Empty poo bag.

Dom:     Yeah, sorry. Stick it in an empty poo bag. Stick it in your pocket so you don’t get your gunky pocket all dirty, and take it with you and feed your dog on his walks. If you did that for two or three days and didn’t feed your dog from a bowl, your dog would very quickly get the idea.

Alex:      Oh, yeah, super quickly.

Dom:     I’m ongoing to get my food when I do this. That’s another little thing that people can do with the food. Something else that you can do with the food is teach your dog some tricks. Do you do any tricks with your dog, Alex?

Alex:      Yes. I’ve learnt from the best, and little Otis, he can do a sit, he can do a spin. We haven’t done a twist yet. He can’t quite grasp the concept of going the other way, but we’re getting there. He’s just learnt down as well recently, which took … He’s never done a down before, but, yes, we-

Dom:     So how did you do it?

Alex:      Well, we didn’t use food. We used toys with Otis, because he’s more motivated … Although that being said, we have used food in the house because-

Dom:     Yeah.

Alex:      Obviously we tend not to chuck toys about and stuff in the house.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Alex:      Or like we can’t get them to do stuff with them. Yeah, we’ve used luring to get them to do the things that we need.

Dom:     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Alex:      He knows how to do a sit anywhere, but sometimes if he’s really fixated on that bit of chicken that you’ve got, and he’s looking up at you, it’s like he hasn’t got the capacity to think about sitting. He’s just like, “I really want this chicken.”

Dom:     Must have chicken.

Alex:      Yeah. What we’ve done is it’s just the simple thing of having the piece of chicken and kind of lifting it above his head-

Dom:     Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Alex:      So he has to kind of look up and sit down-

Dom:     Yeah.

Alex:      And it’s just like simple things like that work really well.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah, brilliant. Trick training’s awesome because you have to concentrate, as you just described that you’re teaching Otis. Otis is concentrating on the food. He’s thinking, “How can I get that bit of chicken.”

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     You’re concentrating on Otis, because you’re waiting for his bum to hit the floor so you can tell him he’s a good boy, because you’re dying to tell him he’s a good boy, or waiting for his chest to hit the floor for a down.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     So you can throw him the chicken. I like trick training. I don’t do enough of it. I’m going to be doing more of it in the new year. I’m going to do more of it in my inner circle as well.

Alex:      New Year’s resolution. Number one.

Dom:     Yeah, definitely. Yeah. We’ll get them in early. It’s great for bonding. It’s great for bonding and we don’t do enough of it. We tend to do it with maybe as a puppy. When we get our puppy, we like to teach him to sit and maybe there’s a down, and then that’s it. We don’t do anything else for the puppy, sometimes for the rest of his life. The puppy would be capable … Your dog’s capable of doing so many things. This bond that you have, this connexion that you’re going to make with him when you’re teaching him tricks, that’s going to help you out in the park to help your dog to walk, to heel. Walking on a loose leash is kind of a trick, you know what I mean? Your dog coming back to you is kind of a trick because it’s your dog doing something and then getting rewarded for it.

Alex:      Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dom:     There’s tonnes of applications that you start off in the house, start off at home where there’s no distractions. Don’t use something maybe that’s too high value for the dog. You want to … Maybe just a bit of regular kibble, then you can progress to a more high value treat outside. Yeah, trick training is a really awesome thing.

The last thing I wanted to mention, which is something we’re big proponents of, and I always recommend people use a lot anyway. I think it’s the easiest way for you to provide a challenge for your dog is to use a Kong.

Alex:      Yeah.

Dom:     Other treat dispensers are available. We’re a big fan of Planet Dog treat dispensers as well.

Alex:      Yeah, yeah.

Dom:     There’s tonnes of different ones that you can get, but their awesome.  You’ve started to use them more as well, haven’t you?

Alex:      Yeah. Otis had one, but it’s lost in a cupboard somewhere. I did get him one. I knew how good they were, but because he’s quite a stubborn dog in a way, and I haven’t been with him all his life, I didn’t know how well he would take to it, whether he just wouldn’t be interested. Once he … I don’t know whether he remembered what it was or anything, because it was identical to the one he had, or whether he just sort of figured it out, because I kind of helped him along the way. I would stuff it with like bits of dried food and stuff that would burst out if he knocked it on the floor.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah.

Alex:      I would pick it up and drop it, and be like, “Look, look, it’s fallen out.” He really quickly caught on to that as well.

Dom:     Yeah.

Alex:      He would start, like Sydney does, lifting it up and chucking it around and stuff.

Dom:     Yeah.

Alex:      He loves it. Yeah, he loves it. It’s really … It makes me feel good after we’ve taken him out on a walk, and he’s really enjoyed the walk, but obviously all dogs want to just … The walk to never end, don’t they? When you come back home, you think, “How can I keep Otis mentally stimulated and keep him entertained so he doesn’t go bored,” especially if I’m going out after that, if I went to work or something. I’ve just found that giving him a Kong really engages him and it will keep him entertained for a good while, and it’s just like a good feeling.

Dom:     It is. It is.

Alex:      To give him that in the house, as well.

Dom:     Yeah. Definitely. It really is. You stick a hot dog in a bowl or give it to your dog, it’s gone in like a second, isn’t it?

Alex:      Totally. I begrudge putting food down now, to be honest.

Dom:     Yeah.

Alex:      For exactly what you said.

Dom:     It’s fulfilling or the dog. I mean, you’re providing a challenge for them and something to do. It gives them an opportunity to sniff and lick and bite and use their strong jaws. We’re always telling dogs off for chewing the furniture and chewing our slippers, but something like this it’s like, “There you go. Do your worst.”

Alex:      Yeah, that’s exactly right. The thing with Otis as well is we can’t buy him tennis balls because he’s a little Jack Russell. He’ll just destroy them. I’d rather buy the hardware. He loves picking things apart.

Dom:     Yeah, yeah.

Alex:      Destroying stuff.

Dom:     Uh-huh (affirmative).

Alex:      Which is fine. We have to get him the really hard rubber balls, but obviously we don’t really want him to be getting rid of the energy from his jaws by destroying the toys that we buy him. If we get him a Kong, as you said, it’s like he’s exercising in that way and getting the enjoyable experience out of chewing the life out of this Kong, but he’s getting rewarded with the food, and they’re really tough. It’s probably going to last for years and years.

Dom:     Definitely, yeah. Maybe there’s a couple of dog breeds out there, type of dogs who will destroy it, like even a Kong, but 99 percent of the dogs out there, you find the right kind of Kong for the dog, he will just … And you’ll add so much pleasure to the dog’s life and so much more … You’ll make life so much easier for yourself as well. A lot of the people in my inner circle, their dog gets excited, maybe it’s when they’re preparing their tea, the family’s tea on an evening. The dog he’s getting excited with all the smells and stuff, and he’s wanting the food off them and stuff. They just put their dog’s tea in a Kong, they give him that, and then he knows that’s the stuff that he can enjoy, and it makes their life a lot easier as well.

Alex:      Totally, yeah.

Dom:     I think Sydney’s ready to go for a little W-A-L-K.

Alex:      He can’t spell yet, then?

Dom:     No. He can’t spell, nah. He can spell in French.

Alex:      Oh, right.

Dom:     I think we’ve wrapped up food there now.

Alex:      That was the point.

Dom:     We better get on and wrap up our presents now, Alex.

Alex:      Yeah, we should.

Dom:     The mince pies are going cold. The orange juice is getting warm.

Alex:      Yeah, it’s true. So Dom, my orange juice is getting warm. The mince pie is probably getting cold. Is that all wrapped up for our Christmas Special?

Dom:     It is, apart from to say that if you wanted to get yourself … If you wanted to treat your dog to a little gift that is going to keep on giving for the whole year and it’s going to be something for you, too, then you should … If you haven’t already … Sydney’s had enough of this. He’s read this book already. You should get yourself a copy of my bestselling dog training book, How To Be A Dog Superhero. There are a million books out there that’ll teach you how to do a sit or a down or they’ll teach you about wolf theory or dog whisperers or whatever, but this book is designed purely just to help you have a bit more fun with your dog. If you love your dog and you love him dearly, you love cuddling him on the coach, but you wish he was better behaved when you took him to the park, this book will help you do that.

There’s 60, maybe 70, I think, reviews on Amazon, which will say exactly the same thing. If you go to, you’ll be able to pick up a book, and I’ll also send you a complimentary Barry bar, the finest organic fair trade chocolate.

Alex:      They are good.

Dom:     Actually, I’m not sure if it’s organic. No, it’s fair trade anyway. It’s fairly traded. The book’s organic. If you wanted to sort of … If you’re thinking you might need a bit more help than that, and some people do need more help, then you should think about joining my inner circle, because the inner circle, whereas the book kind of tells you how to be a dog superhero, if you join the inner circle, there I will show you how to do it as well. We’ve got 60+ people now in the inner circle, and we’re all having a great time learning about our dogs. I’m just teaching these guys how to have more fun with their dog and have more control. You get access to all of the videos in the member’s area, all the how-to videos that are in there.

Alex:      There’s quite a few of them now.

Dom:     Yeah. Loads, yeah. Shot by my good friend. Once a month you get a copy of the Canine Coach and Chronicle. This is my 12-page 5000 word newsletter. This comes once a month to your doorstep, and each month I’ll cover one particular aspect of dog training. We talked about safety and we’ve talked about how to have worry-free walks with your dog. Next month we’re talking about tricks, which is what we’ve just been talking about there now. We also have webinars and audio training, and there’s a private Facebook group where you can get access to me and you can ask any questions, and just basically it’s the only way to get access to me, really, apart from becoming a private coach and client, which I’m not really taking on at the moment. It’s really nice. It’s like a family in there. It sounds a bit cheesy, but it-

Alex:      It’s good vibes in the group.

Dom:     Yeah. We’re celebrating our successes and we’re kind of comforting each other when we’re having little failures with our dogs and stuff. It’s not for dog trainers and stuff, I would say, but if you’re a pet dog owner and you want to learn how to have more fun with your dog or with your dogs, then you should definitely think about joining the inner circle. You can join that at That’s it. We are definitely wrapped up now.

Alex:      Definitely wrapped up. Time to get all that sort for Christmas. There’s not much time left.

Dom:     Definitely, definitely.  We’re going to have our minced pie, and I want to finish up our drinks. If we don’t see you through the week, we’ll see you through the window, and have a very Merry Christmas.

Alex:      Merry Christmas.

Dom:     Cheers, Alex.

Alex:      Cheers.



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Dom Hodgson