by Brian DeMartino December 5th, 2021
There are many methods and ways to train your dog but no method is more effective than using food or treats. Shaping the behavior is when we use the treat in our hand to teach your puppy or adult dog what it is that we want from them. If you hold a treat in your finger tips, put it by your dogs nose so he or she can smell it then slowly raise it upwards, it will lure your dogs head up and then his or her rear will go down into a sit. That is a simple example of using food or a treat to lure your dog into a sit command or shaping a behavior. Once your puppy or adult dog learns the behavior then you put it on cue, which is using a word or command so for that one we would say obviously say “sit”.
So why use food or treats to train our dogs?
Nothing motivates a puppy or adult dog for training more than the way that food does. Treat training makes your dog enjoy the training at the highest level. Some dogs that I train are picky on what type of treat we use so its very important to take the time and find which one or what type of treat is the highest value for your dog. The higher value the treat the harder your dog will work to get one.
The area you are training can change which type of treat you will use. Some dogs will respond in a very motivated way when training with no distractions like being inside, but if you go outside then that can be distracting to your dog and you might have to find a higher value one that your dog will be engaged on when distracted or outside.
Using a treat allows us to be really accurate through the learning phase when dog training. Training your dog with a toy to learn a command like laying down is harder to do because of the size of the toy. During the learning phase if you use a toy before the dog knows to give it back or drop it then you have to hold two toys which can be hard to do until learning how to do that properly. So with the treats we have an unlimited amount to use and do not have to worry about getting them back like a toy.
Treat training is powerful when building confidence in our dogs or working them through some behavior issues. For example if your dog is a little nervous around strangers coming in your home the person can toss a few treats on the floor for your dog to have to help build trust and a positive association. Once your dog is more comfortable then he or she will start to go up to the person and take the treats from there hand.
How often to use the treats
Training your dog consistently is what needs to be done to have your dog fully learn obedience training and to move on to the next levels of their training. If I stop rewarding a puppy or adult dog to soon then he or she will not enjoy the training as much, so we want to be consistent with reward until the behavior is fully learned and your dog has a lot of fun and motivation responding as when you first started with the treat training. You want to use your judgment on how much throughout the day but because your dog will be working he or she will not gain weight from the rewarding. When our dog is at the level of starting to cut back on frequency of reward then we cut it back but not too much, every other time or every few times is good. Eventually we get to the jackpot phase where your dog knows reward is coming but not sure exactly when, so works just as hard. I think of treat reward is like us getting a salary at work, the higher and consistent frequency and we continue to work just as hard.
Give the treat training a try and ill be doing an article of switching to a toy and what kind.