Dog training is all about teaching dogs to make good choices and helping them to understand that their choices have consequences.
One of the simplest, yet most effective, games I know to teach this to young puppies or dogs new to training is the slow treats game.
Most dogs can learn this trick within minutes — yet it’s actually teaching a fairly complicated, and “zen” concept: if you want the cookie, you must stay away from the cookie.
How to Play Slow Treats
This game is simple — holding a treat in one hand, call over the dog. Starting with the treat at shoulder height, slowly move the treat closer to the dog. If the dog moves to get closer to the treat, quickly move the treat further away. If the dog holds still, continue to move the treat closer.
The first few times, you may need to “speed up” the treat once you’re within 6 or so inches of the dog’s mouth, to help the dog understand that patience will pay out eventually.
Once the dog “gets” the game, you can alternate between bringing the treat closer slowly, and moving it more quickly.
Additional Benefits and Uses for Slow Treats
This game is great for teaching puppies to be “gentle” with hands and teachings dogs not to snap treats. Whenever my dog gets a bit over-aroused to the point of getting a bit “sharky,” I pull this game back out and practice with a few cookies until she’s calmed back down again.
Once a puppy has gotten the idea for this game, it’s fairly easy to also teach them to wait nicely while their dinner bowl or water bowl is placed on the floor — preventing kibble (or water) from being knocked all over the floor!