Training your dog requires consistency, patience, and strategies that eventually have your dog appreciate the instructions you give. One of the strategies used to train is that of using dog treats. It is important to know how to use these properly as misuse can lead to negative outcomes in the learning process, as well as compromise in health and your relationship with your dog. We have compiled a list of how to use dog training treats properly, to help you achieve the best possible outcome of training your dog.
1. Healthy Treats
You must use healthy treats when training your dog to avoid possible health conditions caused by a poor diet. Treating your dog every time they master a skill with fatty meat, for example, can lead to obesity or a clogged heart. As much as the intention is to show that you appreciate them for learning and mastering a skill, the type of food must be carefully thought out.
You are encouraged to include treats such as bully sticks canada, which are made from natural protein. Such treats containing natural protein contain essential amino acids that are required for healthy fur, paw nails, muscle development, and tissue repair. Using such healthy treats means not only does your dog enjoy the training process, but they also benefit from the nutrients that are contained in the snacks.
2. Quality Treats
There is an array of types of treats that you can get for your dog. You must make sure that whatever type of treat you get is of high quality. This reduces the risk of compromising the health of your dog. Quality treats include hormone-free, grain-free, and preservative-free treats for example.
3. Chewy Treats
Giving your dog long-lasting chewy treats means you won’t offer your dog large amounts of treats that can lead to weight issues. Your dog can spend 20 minutes chewing one treat rather than constant re-filling of your dog’s mince bowl. Training occurs throughout the day, meaning you use less snacks by offering ones that your dog will enjoy chewing over a period.
4. Tasty Treats
Healthy treats don’t necessarily mean bland tasting treats. Your dog will master a skill by knowing that, at the end of the lesson, there is a tasty treat that awaits. You can experiment with different tasty treats such as chicken, peanut butter, or beef treats. Try giving different tasting snacks at different times to see which taste sits well with your dog. If your dog is put off by a particular taste, they may not be motivated to train because there won’t be an enjoyable treat to look forward to.
5. Odorless Treats
Some dogs don’t enjoy treats that emit a certain odour. For example, a chicken-scented treat may deter a dog that doesn’t enjoy eating chicken. Using odourless treats can eliminate the issue of your dog not participating in a training lesson because of the disappointment that follows of a scented treat.
This is not to say that dogs don’t appreciate the smell. They have a great sense of smell that works for them in different settings. However, when starting the process of training, you may want to start with odourless treats just to avoid those that may put them off and slow down the whole process.
6. Immediate Treating
Waiting to treat your dog a long period after having completed a training session may be counterproductive. Your dog might not be able to relate the two events to each other. This means your dog won’t associate mastering a skill with being able to enjoy a treat. You are advised to treat your dog while they are still in the training position so that a direct relation of the two events can be formed. For example, if your dog is in the sitting position as instructed, you can then give the treat while they are still seated.
7. Calm Treating
Although we mention to reward your dog immediately, you want to reward your dog for positive behaviour. You should give your dog a treat when they are in a calm disposition. Rewarding your dog when they are excitable or in an agitated state communicates that the behavior is also worth praise.
For the training process to be successful, you have to be consistent with the treats. Treating your dog during the morning session but not in the afternoon session, for example, communicates that whether the dog is successful or not, a treat doesn’t necessarily matter. Inconsistency can de-motivate your dog and lead to back-tracking or refusal to train.
Avoid giving your dog training treats when it’s not training time. This may confuse your dog and they may not make the connection between the training and the treats. Only treat when your dog has completed a training session.
9. Pat When Treating
You can pat your dog as you give the treat. The combination of treating and patting makes your dog realise just how proud you are and how appreciated they are. This can motivate your dog to consistently attempt and excel at a task. Patting can then eventually replace treating during the phasing out process when your dog has completely mastered the instructions.
10. Make It Fun
Your dog has to associate the treats with having had a fun learning session. If your dog feels pressured or senses your impatience, they will associate those emotions with the treat. This can lead to a complete refusal of the treat, and can lead to anxiety or depression. You must make training fun for your dog by adopting different teaching styles that may include making up a song or dance, clapping, and petting throughout the process. Only then will treating be appreciated by your dog.
11. Surprise Treating
You want to avoid making your dog feel as if they are only worth a treat when having mastered command. This can lead to your dog feeling as if your relationship is performance-based. As much as consistent rewarding is encouraged, remind your dog that they matter regardless of having performed a task. You can use a different type of treat as a means of differentiate a reward treat and a surprise treat.
12. Remove Distractions
If you notice that your dog isn’t paying much attention to the treats, it may be that they are paying attention to more enticing food. For example, if your dog’s bowl has a meal ready, they may be more interested in the meal than in the treat at that given moment. Remove any enticing objects or food that you know might lure your dog away from the treat you wish them to focus on.
Distractions can also come in the form of the environmental setting. For example, if the music is loud, your dog may retreat into their shell. This means that the training process wouldn’t have been effective and they may not be interested in the treat.
13. Phase Out
Eventually, your dog will have to master commands without being given a treat. Use your discretion based on your dog’s progress of when you need to start cutting back. This is why it’s important to treat your dog together with patting and praising, because eventually there will no longer be a treat.
There are different ways to phase out treats depending on your style and your dog’s progress. You can start by eliminating the number of times that you give a treat until you are at a stage where these have been eliminated. This means you will have to mindfully increase your praises and patting so that your dog continues to feel appreciated and confident enough to continue with the process.
14. Random Treating
Once your dog has got the hang of the different commands, you can always treat randomly when they act without necessarily having been instructed to. At the stage, your dog doesn’t rely on the treats nor expect the treat as consistently as the beginning stages. Random rewards are a way of re-enforcing positive behaviour and showing appreciation for your dog.
How to Treat in a Nutshell
The underlying guiding factor of using treats when training your dog is that the process and experience have to be positive for both you and your dog. Ways to facilitate this positive experience include getting healthy, chewy, tasty, odourless, and quality treats.
You then have to make sure that the strategy that you use to treat will encourage your dog to continue with the learning process. This may include immediately treating your calm dog as opposed to putting off the treat or treating when your dog is in an excitable state.
You have to remain consistent, make the process interactive and fun, pat when you treat, and make sure that there are no distractions. Once your dog has mastered the art of the commands, you can continue to randomly reward them as they deserve treats here and there.
You also have to make sure that you are in a positive state otherwise your dog will associate treats with negativity. Make sure to be patient, calm and nurturing at all times. Training your dog is a process which can eventually lead to positive outcomes if such steps are implemented.