Working for treats!
by Jessica Tew // February 2018
Working for treats!
Food is a great motivator for our dogs, especially in new or challenging situations. All dogs need to eat and most love to work for it!
Why use food in training?
Food is great in training as it is an easy reward to deliver to your dog. It’s important to reward your dog for good behaviours so they learn these are the best ones.
In training, you can make your treats as small as you want so you can deliver lots and lots of rewards and make sure your dog is learning fast in a fun, effective and bond building manner.
What treats to use?
For training we can choose food our dogs enjoy the most (high value) for more demanding situations (recall away from another dog etc), these can include tiny pieces of chicken, hot dog, liver and cheese.
We can also have plainer treats (low value) at hand for building up good behaviour in less exciting times (such as sitting, giving a paw etc), these can include dog biscuits, packaged treats or even your dog's normal meals if they are very food-oriented.
It’s important we understand that when in a challenging situation our dogs are unlikely to link in with us if all we have to offer is the equivalent of a rich tea biscuit (yawn!).
My dog doesn’t seem particularly interested in treats…
Some dogs aren’t as interested in treats as other dogs, for example, they may not accept treats when they are out and about. Sometimes this may be because they are really lucky and are used to really high-value food at home at their meal times. If your dog is getting fresh chicken/ turkey/beef as well as their dry food they may not be as excited about “treats” because they know they will get the same later anyhow!
Equally a dog may not take treats when they are out and about because they are more excited about their environment, what there is to sniff and what else they could get up to! If you think this is the case you might want to try other types of treats and see if they are any more interested in that, it may just be that they aren’t that bothered about chicken!
Some dogs may not take treats when out for quite the opposite reason, they may be a little anxious or nervous and not feel like eating. If this is the case you may need to do some work building up their confidence outdoors, give us a call and we can have a chat about this – it may be that our classes would be a great place to start!
Some dogs just aren’t entirely motivated with food and this is fine, instead, we can use verbal or physical praise or if they are particularly playful they may find a game just as motivating as a yummy treat! The main point though is to reward your dog, it’s just a matter of finding what each dog finds rewarding!
In our training sessions, we recommend using lots and lots of really tiny (pea sized) high-value treats. This keeps your dog motivated and also doesn’t fill them up! When you are at home you can reduce the value of the treats and also with practice reduce how many you have to give. If you’ve done a lot of training in one day you may want to consider reducing the size of dinner so that they don’t end up getting podgy as a result!
Will I always have to rely on treats to keep my dog trained?
When using food in training we need to gradually withdraw it so we aren’t stood holding chicken out to get a response from our dogs. Our treats should only be used to help our dogs learn and then we need to wean them off – give us a call if you need some help in this area!
We love using food in training (almost as much as our dogs love working for it). So if you want to enrol in some fun, reward-based classes with even more hints and tips on dog training then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.