Effectively Using Treats to Train Your Puppy or Adult Dog
The main benefit of using treats while training a dog is that you’ll get results more quickly. Words of praise and encouragement are rarely enough to motivate a dog to do a particular thing. By training with treats, though, you create a positive association between a desired behavior and a delicious treat. There’s virtually no simpler or more effective way to tell your dog he’s doing a great job.
Top 8 Tips for Using Treats to Train a Dog or Puppy
- Be Generous – People often wonder how many treats they should give their dogs while training them. During any given training session, be as liberal with the treats as you’d like. As long as the dog has accomplished the desired objective, go ahead and give her a treat. There’s no need to establish a maximum number because the training session won’t go on forever.
- Use Small Pieces – Dog treats come in many shapes and sizes. Naturally, you’d like to keep your dog from piling on the pounds. Sticking with healthy, low calorie treats like Brave Beagle’s US-made chicken liver treats is the best option. You can also break off small pieces of larger treats. And use common sense, as to the size and age of your dog.
- Training Puppies versus Adults – Because puppies are still growing, they need extra help while being trained. However, older dogs may be stuck in their ways, so they need lots of reinforcement with rewards like treats too. Therefore, be just as generous with puppies as you are with adult dogs. However, remember that older dogs may be receptive to other types of rewards too.
- Train Just Before Mealtime – Whenever possible, train your dog or puppy with treats just before their usual mealtime. That way, they will be hungry, and the treats will be even more motivating.
- Don’t Use Treats as Bribes – Take care not to use treats as bribes. For instance, if the wrong approach is used, your dog may start thinking of the treat as part of the cue. Even when you give the cue, he won’t perform the appropriate action if he’s not offered a treat simultaneously.
- When and Where – As mentioned above, training a dog with treats when he’s hungry tends to be more effective. As for where, start out in quiet, secluded, peaceful settings. Over time, work your way up to noisier, more distracting places. Use common sense too. Using treats in a dog park is likely to cause a major uproar. If you’d rather not have a pack of dogs chasing after you for treats, reserve these techniques for other places.
- Keep Training Sessions Brief – Plan on spending a maximum of 15 minutes per training session with your dog. If the session is much longer than that, your pup is likely to start feeling overwhelmed. He may even start resenting the sessions and may try to actively avoid them–even if treats are on the table. Try teaching a few different things in one 15-minute session, and use repetitions. For instance, do 10 repetitions teaching your dog to sit, and then do 10 repetitions of teaching her to lay down.
- Be in a Good Mood – As you probably already know, dogs are very empathetic. If you’re not up for training her, don’t. Ideally, you should be in a good mood and should feel excited about working with your pup. When your dog senses your enthusiasm, he’s more likely to want to please you.
Choosing the Right Dog Training Treats
Before delving into specific methods for training your pooch, here’s a quick rundown on what to look for in dog treats you’ll be using. They should be compact and easy to carry from place to place. The best dog treats are reasonably low in calories while still delivering a great nutritional punch. Look for dog treats made in USA to ensure the health and safety of your dog. Finally, experiment a little. Your dog has preferences, and it may take a little trial and error to find treats she’ll respond favorably to.
Clicker Training with Treats
Professional trainers rely on treats, and most swear by the clicker training method. This involves using a small box with a metal tongue that’s pressed to make a clicking sound. It serves as a way of communicating with your pooch, who will come to associate the “click” with receiving a reward like a treat. The reason a clicker is so effective is because it can be clicked the instant a dog performs the appropriate action. With dog training, timing is everything.
To clicker train your dog, put the clicker in one hand and a treat in the other. Keep the hand with the treat closed until the dog loses interest. At a random moment, click one time and hand her the treat. Put another treat in your closed hand and wait. Repeat the process again and again at random intervals. This will teach your dog to associate the click noise with a reward: a delicious dog treat.
In the context of training a dog, catching doesn’t mean teaching your dog to catch a ball. Rather, it means rewarding her when you catch her behaving appropriately. For instance, wait for your dog to lie down. When she does, click the clicker and give her a treat. Wait some more until she lies down again, and then click and give her a treat. Gradually, you can start introducing cues and phase out the treats and clicker.
Use shaping to train your dog to perform more complex actions. This involves rewarding your dog as she achieves small, gradual steps. For example, if you’re training her to raise her paw, click and give a treat when she shifts her weight appropriately. Keep repeating until she gets that step down. Then, hold off on clicking and rewarding until she slightly raises her paw. Continue until she is raising her paw as high as possible upon command.
This technique can be used to get your dog into the desired position by luring him with a treat. It works well for loose leash walk training. In that case, hold the treat alongside you, where you’d like your dog to walk. When she gets there, click the clicker and give her the treat.
Although some folks swear by using treats when house training their dogs, most veterinarians are against it. That’s mostly because your dog has plenty of strong, natural incentives for becoming potty trained: Keeping his den and dining area clean. Also, providing lots of treats during this process may throw off your dog’s digestion, which can negatively affect her ability to become housebroken.
As your dog improves with whatever you’re teaching him, you can start incorporating cues like commands and hand gestures. Slowly but surely, start phasing out the dog training treats. For instance, start only offering them when he makes an especially good effort or when he accomplishes it in a new environment. You can also start using other types of rewards like games or toys.
Effective Training Begins with the Right Treats