Deciding to get a dog is a huge decision but training them is a different story and it can be difficult to get your dog to learn the new skills you want them to have. One of the most effective tools for teaching your dog is positive reinforcement with treats. The idea behind this method is simple: when a dog does something correctly, they’ll receive a tasty reward that encourages them to repeat the behaviour in the future. In this article, we’ll explain how you can use treats effectively when training your dog.
Before You Start
Before you begin using treats as part of your dog’s training program, there are some important things to consider:
- Make sure that you’re using high-value treats – Your dog needs motivation to learn and respond positively, so make sure that you choose treats that your dog loves and will really look forward to getting. This could include fresh meat or cheese, special treats made specifically for dogs, or even small pieces of fruit or vegetables. Additionally, you will want to make sure that the treat you choose is small enough so that your dog can eat it quickly and not get distracted by chewing the treat instead of focusing on the training session.
- Monitor what treats your dog gets from other people – If other people in your household are giving your dog lots of unhealthy snacks or food meant for humans, then these are likely going to be more appealing than the healthy rewards you offer during training sessions. Make sure everyone knows which treats are intended for training purposes only and should not be given out casually.
- Be aware of any dietary restrictions – If your dog has any health issues or allergies then certain types of food may not be suitable as rewards. Consult with your veterinarian before deciding which type of treat is best for your particular dog.
How To Use Treats During Training Sessions
Now that you’ve chosen the right type of treat for training purposes, here’s how you can use them effectively during each session:
- Begin each session with praise – Before offering any treats, start by praising your dog in an excited voice (e.g., “Good boy! Great job!”). This helps create an enthusiastic atmosphere where both you and your canine companion feel more motivated and engaged in the learning process.
- Offer small amounts of treats at first – When introducing a new behaviour or command, start by offering only very small pieces of treats so that your dog doesn’t get overwhelmed by receiving too much at once. As they become more comfortable with the task at hand, gradually increase the size of the reward until it becomes consistent with what they would normally expect from performing the behaviour correctly (e.g., if they successfully complete five sit commands then give them one large piece instead of five smaller ones).
- Reward immediately after success – The timing of reward delivery is key. Make sure that each treat comes as soon as possible after they perform the desired action (e.g., within one second). This helps reinforce in their mind exactly which action was responsible for them receiving their reward so they know what behaviour to repeat in order to get another one.
- Take regular breaks – It’s important not to overwork either yourself or your pup during any training session. Take regular breaks throughout so that both you and your dog can relax, calm down, and recharge before continuing on with more commands afterwards. This can be especially helpful if your dog is an excitable, enthusiastic breed such as a Labrador Retriever.
- End on a positive note – Always finish off each session on a good note. Go back to easier commands or tricks and set your dog up for success. Once they obey your command, provide plenty of praise and affection along with one final treat as a way of saying “well done!” This helps ensure that you leave every lesson feeling happy about all the progress made, rather than frustrated about anything that wasn’t achieved quite yet.
- Keep track of how many treats you give out each day – This will help ensure that you aren’t overfeeding your dog. It’s not uncommon to give out 10 to 20 treats over the course of a 15-minute training session. Still, it is important to reward them appropriately during each training session and maintain motivation levels throughout their learning process.
Using treats as part of a positive reinforcement approach is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to teaching dogs new behaviours and commands; however, it also requires careful consideration in order for it to be used effectively. By following these tips on how best to use treats while training a dog, you can help ensure that your dog has an enjoyable and productive training experience.