Dogs aren’t wired to listen to their human’s command immediately. It takes training for them to be obedient, well-disciplined, and calm in different situations. Sometimes, your canine companion will even purposely test how much they can get away with things. Other times, they simply refuse to listen. Dog training takes a whole lot of time and patience.
Fortunately, you don’t have to jump into the task unaided. Treats were made to make dog training easier for owners and more satisfying for dogs. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to use treats. You need to learn which is which to use them effectively on training your dog.
Why Give Treats When Training Dogs?
A dog’s love and attention aren’t as unconditional as most dog owners would like to think. Although dogs may be very attached to their owners and even love them, making their humans happy is not always enough of an incentive to listen to and follow commands.
Enter treats. To say that dogs are food motivated is an understatement. Dogs will roll, sit, and work for food. Some more eagerly than others. They will also respond to praises and pats, but that depends on whether they think those are enough incentive or not.
Treats make for a stronger reinforcement because they appeal to a dog’s sense of smell, taste, and touch. They also help fill the stomach, which, as all dog owners know, is every dog’s top priority.
One of the most effective dog-training methods, positive reinforcement uses treats, toys, and rewards to encourage repetition of desirable behavior and unlearn undesirable ones in dogs.
Reinforcement versus Bribe
Treats are indispensable tools for dog training, but they must be used properly to be effective. There’s a difference between reinforcement and bribe. Reinforcement means rewarding positive or desirable behavior after your dog displays it.
When your dog displays an undesirable behavior or doesn’t listen to your command and you give them treats to make them stop or persuade them to perform, that’s called bribing. Bribing teaches your dog that it’s all right for them to act out or refuse to listen because you will coax them anyway.
How to Use Treats for Dog Training
Dogs respond well to rewards, especially treats. The younger the pups, the more eager they are to perform for treats, but that doesn’t mean that older dogs don’t respond well to such rewards. They are just a little bit less enthusiastic over treats. To use treats effectively for training, you need to keep these things in mind:
Don’t be too generous with treats
Remember that treats are used as a reward after the dog performs a task. Don’t give your dog a treat just because it looked at you with cute puppy eyes, whined, or begged for it.
And when you do give your dogs some treats, make sure the size and deliciousness of the treat are proportional to the level of difficulty of the task or behavior. Essentially, the harder the task or the behavior, the bigger or the more delicious the treat.
More importantly, remember that treats are not dog food. You should consider them in your dog’s diet plan, but you should not use them to substitute for proper, nutritious, and filling food.
Instant gratification works better during the early stages of training
Your biggest goal for training your dogs is to teach them to control themselves and be calm and patient. But most, if not all, dogs are easily excitable when they see something interesting or new. Treats are one of those things.
When using treats to train your dogs, instant gratification is more effective at reinforcing positive behavior. This means that you should reward them with a treat as soon as they perform the command. For instance, when you tell them to sit, give them the treat while they’re still in sitting position. Dogs remember behaviors better when they can immediately associate these behaviors with something positive.
Gradually wean your dog off treats
Treat should never become your dog’s sole motivation to behave well and listen to you. Once your pup has sufficiently mastered commands and established good behaviors, you should reward it with treats sparingly. Your dogs need to learn that obedience and good behavior are what you expect of them. You can reward them with treats occasionally to keep them interested and excited.
Instead of treats, you can use praise or pet them to reward good behavior. You can gradually wean your pup off treats and build a stronger bond with them.
The Characteristics of a Good Treat
The best treats are not just scrumptious but are also healthy for your dog. Despite their propensity to chew and eat just about anything, dogs are somewhat connoisseurs of pet treats. That said, good treats should have these characteristics:
Made with dog-friendly ingredients
Lots of commercial dog treats use fillers, like grain, and artificial flavors that don’t have any benefit to your dogs and may even be harmful to them. When choosing a pet treat, make sure that it’s grain-free and contains beneficial ingredients that promote canine health, like those delicious doggy treats from Redbarn.
Read the label before you buy one, and watch out for unhealthy ingredients, like artificial coloring, BHA/BHT, white flour, meat meal, nitrites, and sodium tripolyphosphate, among other things.
Treats for training should be small and easily digestible. Your dog’s attention can easily wander.
If you give your dogs a huge chunk of a treat as a reward, they may focus on that instead of the training. You want to be swift and alert to keep your dog engaged during training. Moreover, experts at Hartz advise that treats should only consist of 10 percent or less of a pet’s diet. Giving them big and filling treats may cause a loss of appetite and an imbalance in nutrition.
Nutritious and tasty for your pet
Dog food and treat companies could slap every synonym of delicious on the label, but the truth of the matter is, if your dog doesn’t find the treat tasty, then it’s not, at least for them. Being edible is not enough for a treat to entice your dog. The treat should suit your dog’s palate too.
Different dogs have different tastes. The best way you can find the best treat for your buddy is to try out various kinds and brands. You can also observe the foods they like to eat and find treats that are made from the same ingredients.
Pet treats should also have some substance. Many treats out there are only delicious but don’t have benefits to pets’ health. Check your treat for essential vitamins and minerals to help boost your buddy’s health.
There’s a reason (a lot of reasons, in fact) dogs are considered man’s best friend. For one, they can quickly adapt to life with people and are willing to do tons of things to please their humans. These qualities make them trainable and great companions. Just as Rome wasn’t built in one day, a dog cannot be trained overnight. As an owner, you must take time and have the patience, determination, and enthusiasm to help your dog best version of himself.
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