How to Train Your Dog Using Treats
They say that one of the most difficult things to achieve in life is ‘change’, and for that reason, training of any kind is a tedious process. Anything that can make the whole process a whole lot more attainable is a welcome escape from what may initially seem like a hopeless situation. Since dogs do not quite understand verbal cues the way humans do, the concept of receiving a reward for good behavior is something that could bridge the communication gap. When used in the right way, using treats can streamline the whole process, but it could backfire just as easily. To ensure that it never gets to that point, here are some tips on how to train your dog using treats.
Why Use Dog Treats For Training?
Contrary to what most people believe, dogs do not live for or act in a certain way just to please their owners. In a way, they do like it when their masters are pleased with them but that is not enough of a reason for them to steadily behave themselves. They need some other form of reward in order to make their good behavior a more permanent thing. Dogs may be quite codependent but they also generally want to have things go their way for the most part of it.
As similar as that sounds to bribery, it really is not. It is important to understand that there is a serious barrier to communication when it comes to humans and dogs and there are very few ways to break down those barriers. One of those ways is making use of treats. Every time your pup gets rewarded for being good, it encourages them to keep up that behavior. Making use of dog treats is a great way to let your dog know that it is alright to act a certain way. Of course, it can easily become a crutch but when done the right way it can be the help that you need.
1. Get Their Attention
Think of treats as a way to lure your dog in, you can use them to lure your pet in to act in the way you want them to. For instance, if you want your dog to perform the simple act of sitting, then you can simply kick start the process by using a treat to guide them.
Start by holding the treat close to the dog’s nose, then proceed to move it over its head. This causes most dogs to respond by sticking up their noses in order to follow the treat. Once the nose goes up, the bottom goes down and there you have it. This will help your dog to initially understand what it is that you want them to do and it can equally be used with a number of other actions such as rolling over.
2. Use it As a General Reward
This encompasses the whole concept of training your dog using treats, dog treats are a great way to let your dog know that they are doing the right thing. Anytime you successfully lure your dog to carry out an action or simply have them do it by administering a command, instantly hand them a treat. This is something that works for all sorts of behavior, so you need to be careful with your timing so as not to reinforce negative behavior.
Nevertheless, you can use this action and reward exchange to coax your dog into acting the way you want them to. So, anytime they sit quietly through dinner or behave when you are having some friends over, a good way to let them know that they are headed in the right direction is to hand them a treat.
3. Use Treats Sparingly
Training can be quite frustrating even for the most patient people. So, once an avenue to make the whole thing easier rears its head, it is extremely easy to get carried away. This is often true when it comes to giving dogs treats while training them, going overboard can happen without you noticing it. Treats are not the only form of positive reinforcement that can be used, so feel free to mix it up once in a while so it does not become redundant. It is also a good idea to slow down on the treats so as to prevent your pet from packing on those extra pounds throughout the training process. You can do this by using smaller treats or pieces of treats to congratulate your pup on a job well done.
4. Reward the Right State of Mind
Dogs are quite excitable creatures, they feed off excitement, they run with it and have the ability to take it to a whole other level. As adorable as it can be at times, you do not want to have a dog that feels it is alright to escalate at all times. Based on this, it is wise to simply reward your pet when he/she is in a calm and somewhat submissive state.
These treats are meant to reinforce good behavior, so, do refrain from handing them to your pet when they are in a hyper state. This may not be destructive behavior, but it is not good either. Exercise some patience and restraint and give your pet treats only when they are in a state of mind you would not mind seeing on a regular basis.
5. Say No to Bribery
It is very easy to cross the line and start using treats as a form of leverage. At the end of the training process, you want to be left with a dog that carries out your commands without wanting some form of reward at the end. What the treat should be used for is to simply get your pet’s attention and not to be the reason that he/she responds to a command.
Once you really get down to the nitty-gritty part of the training, treats should be used a lot less than at the initial stage. You can also give them rewards in the form of affection, praise attention and other things your pet considers to be pleasant. This way, your pet will learn how to carry out commands without expecting to be given something to nibble on at the end.
6. Wean Your Dog off the Lure Technique
This is exactly what needs to be done so that treats do not turn into bribes. As useful as the lure is, it cannot stay forever. For instance, after using the treat a couple of times to get your dog to sit by holding it over his/her nose then moving it over their head, you should simply repeat the same action but with an empty hand. Yes, your pup may be surprised to see an empty hand at first, but this is time to use to good old verbal reinforcement. You can then proceed to hand them the treat with your other hand or place it on a nearby surface. This is just to keep them invested, but as you go on the treats should become less frequent and eventually fade out.
Also, ensure that you give your dog the treat while they are still in the commanded position. Since dogs do not quite comprehend things the way humans do it is important to remember that the behavior that precedes the treat is the one that will be reinforced. So, if the command was ‘sit’ then give them the treat while they are still seated not when they have jumped up in excitement.
7. Mix it Up
Training is not the most fun thing to do in the world and though treats make it a whole lot more bearable, the same treat could further bore your pet. This is one of the main problems that plague food-oriented obedience training. Just like humans, dogs have their preferences so first of all, be sure that your pet likes the treat you are offering. Also, ensure that you switch it up once in a while so as to insert some much-needed excitement into the drab world of training. You can also test out a range of healthy dog treats so as to ascertain the ones that your dog is more attuned to. This way it is truly a win-win situation for all parties involved.
8. Eliminate Distractions
Concentration is not a dog’s strongest suit by a long shot, even the promise of a delicious treat may not be enough to coax your pet into carrying out any given command. If you find yourself in a situation where dog treats are not quite working the way you want them to then perhaps there is something in your immediate environment that is proving to be a lot more interesting than the treat. Things such as cars passing by, rodents and small animals scurrying about, loud noises or even the mailman may pose as serious distractions for your pet. So, be sure to find a space where you are sure to be the center of attention.