A few years back, my dear friend Casey Lomonaco (of Dogster’s Behavior and Training blog) sent me a prize package that included this small plastic tube-like item. Little did I know that this item would become a favorite training tool in my house (and one I was so sad to “lose” when I moved… *after a frantic search, I finally found my second food tube that I thought I had lost!). The Food Tube (link is to where I buy mine–there is an option to buy in bulk at a lower rate though that option is on a different page) is really a must-have for any dog handler/trainer. Okay, so maybe not a must have but an ought to have.
This is a food tube:
The food tube is…well, it’s a tube with an open end that allows you to easily stuff semi-solid treats into a sweet food delivery system. It’s so simple but so useful.
It’s great for working reactive/aggressive dogs because as dogs become stressed, they often will start to have a harder mouth and the tube keeps your fingers from getting crunched. It also allows you to keep your fingers/hands farther away from the mouth of a dog who may have a big aggressive display that involves thrashing teeth. I also really enjoy that it can be a continuous reward for the dog… it’s not kibble after kibble after kibble after kibble…. it can be steady access to food during times of high stress (good for classical conditioning because you can reward for as long as the negative stimulus is in view and there aren’t moments of no food).
The food tube is easy to use… is generally pretty clean (do NOT over fill… over filling WILL end in a stinky mess LOL!)… is capable of providing very quick rewards, is capable of being filled with a wide variety rewards (of different levels).
One of the things I have found so very helpful is that for dogs with GI issues, you can often fill the tube with the canned version of the food they normally eat. This consistency between kibble and high level reward keeps their GI content while also providing an enticing reward for a dog who may have otherwise been quite limited in safe rewards.
Shayne gets hotdogs, boiled chicken, natural balance, string cheese, meatballs, deli meat, and left over steak/chicken pretty regularly for training treats…but her doggie crack is something I use with the food tube. I kid you not, this is a food so valuable to her that she completely loses her mind … so I can only use it when working her reactivity or fear issues. She can think enough to hand target, look at the dog, look away, and a few other very well known and rudimentary behaviors, but ask her for a scoot, or a sit pretty, or a stay… and there is uh.. no way it’s happening. Wellness Core Salmon Whitefish and Herring canned dog food is what sends her over the edge… she would give up any other food for this canned food and there is absolutely no way I could have used it in her rehabilitation with out the food tube.
So, if you haven’t ever tried a food tube, I do suggest giving them a go. They take a little bit of experimentation to build a nice system of filling them and then being able to carry and present them as a reward in a quick manner but they are fun to use.
If I’m using a food tube, I often will carry it, cap-off, in a bait back on my hip. That method allows for easy access, no cap to take off, if it’s stored tip up the risk of mess is pretty low (anything too liquidy or if you over fill, it can leak out the open end of the tube) and it’s easy to deliver very fast rewards.
One of my favorite mixes to use is applesauce (the kind that is pretty thick, not the thin runny, sugary kind) mixed with some peanut butter. The peanut butter thickens up the applesauce just enough to prevent it from just pouring out the tip. So many interesting fillers you can use and create!