2d. Relationship Building (0:32)


Food Builds Relationships

We have already established that food is a wonderful relationship builder. We use it daily by getting together with friends for dinner and conversation. Food is also used to celebrate holidays and birthdays. We use food to celebrate a good day or even to get over a bad day.

Now that we know food is powerful for relationships, we can start using it to build a relationship with our dogs. How we deliver the food is important. Slow delivery helps to lower arousal levels. Speeding up delivery or playing with the food helps to raise arousal. Here are some examples:

Delivery of Rewards Builds Engagement

  • Treat to mouth.
  • Tossing the treat away for dog to “reset”
  • Placing the treat on the ground.
  • Reward your dog where you want your dog to be.

Reinforcement Experience- Play with Your Food

Working with reinforcement deepens relationships. However, how you deliver the reinforcement makes a difference in the emotional response to the reward. Do you want your dog to be more excited by working with you? Are you competing with local wildlife for your dog’s attention? Then maybe your reinforcement needs to be high energy as well. Are you looking for a calm response to people visiting? Then your reinforcement should be delivered calmly.

  • You can hand deliver it – calming
  • You can toss it so they can catch it – builds engagement and arousal
  • Toss, roll or flick food away from you- Two reinforcements in one event – Your dog gets to chase the food then eat it.
  • Slow delivery- builds calmness
  • Fast delivery- builds engagement

 Reward/Payment must be equal to the job that the dog is required to do. Use low value treats for little to no distractions. Use higher value treats for working in distracting environments.

  • Every piece of food that you give your dog is a piece of information to your dog that they are correct.
  • Each piece of food gives your dog a dopamine boost. Remember dopamine is a pleasure/motivation booster. It makes your dog want to work with you more and enjoy doing so. Choosing the correct payment for the environment means that your rewards should be compensatory to the difficulty of the task.

 Name Game

The Name Game is such an easy but powerful game to play. It establishes a positive conditioned emotional response to your dog hearing their name. Playing the Name Game should never get old with your dog.

Builds, relationship, proximity, trust, connection and a great way to start a conversation.


Step 1  Take ten tiny treats or pieces of kibble. Say your dog’s name and give your dog a treat.

Step 2  Your dog does not need to sit, down, or do anything special. Their name will soon mean good things will happen.

Step 3  Be creative; say their name in different ways.

Step 4  This should be done in a fun and exciting way. Do this at least twice a day.