Treat & Train, developed by Dr. Sophia Yin and owned by PetSafe, is a multi-purpose training tool that is most frequently used to help with problem behaviors such as barking and jumping when people enter your home. It can also provide a ton of rainy-day indoor fun for your dog by making him work for his food, burning both physical and mental energy in a small space. (See the video below.) The device includes a food-dispensing container with several options for dispensing treats, a remote control so you can activate the machine from far away, and a target stick. Sound strange? It’s actually brilliant. Here are some ways you can incorporate it into your routine. (Click "Read more" below.)
Polite Manners when Guests Come in
The easy version: Have the Treat and Train in your bedroom. Put it on the “variable” setting. When a guest (or a deliveryman or your super) rings the bell, lead your dog to the bedroom and click the remote to start a continuous dispensing of food until the machine is empty. Shut the door while your dog is eating, knowing you have a few minutes of entertainment for your dog while you let in your guests.
The advanced version: Teach your dog a Place cue next to the machine, during which he is continually reinforced by the Treat and Train. The doorbell is the cue for your dog to go to his mat, where he will get treats until you stop the machine or the treats run out.
Physical and Mental Exercise
Free shape your dog to touch the included target stick. The moment he approaches the target stick, you click the remote, making the machine beep (marker sound) and push out a piece of food. With each rep, wait for him to get closer and closer to the target stick before clicking; eventually he will touch it, which is the ultimate goal. Because your dog is interacting with the device independently, he has to figure out that only approaching, and eventually touching, the target will make treats come out. That’s quite a mental workout. Once your dog learns the game, you can move the target stick farther and farther from the Treat and Train, so your dog has to walk back and forth, touching the target and then getting his treat. This is an easy way to get your dog to exercise himself in a small space!
As you’ll see in the video below, this is great for different doggie personalities. Excitable dogs get a job to do. Bossy dogs learn to problem-solve rather than demand food from their humans. Skittish dogs build confidence by interacting with the environment and earning treats all by themselves. And for us humans, it teaches us to be quiet and simply let the dog figure it out. When you play one of these games, you’ll learn how smart your dog actually is, and you might even come up with new games for your dog to play.
(Note: I have no connection to PetSafe or the Treat & Train brand. I just think it’s a cool device!)
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, MS, is an accomplished author and dog trainer with Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY. Her books, articles, and videos cover everything from house-training to leash aggression.