It may be tempting to toss your dog a treat when you just want to show them some love. Unfortunately, if your dog isn’t working for their treat, then you’re missing out on valuable training time. Even worse, your dog may begin to expect treats and develop unwanted demanding behavior.
Here’s our motto for treats: nothing for free.
Your dog won’t be upset at you for making them earn their treat, they’re going to love it. Using treats this way allows you to reinforce positive behaviors and enables your dog to have fun learning how to get that next treat.
The Key To Effective Treat Giving: Random Variable Rewards
You don’t want to give your dog the same treats for the same behaviors repeatedly. Think of yourself as a (generous) dog treat slot machine. Sometimes the treat is a ball or a pat on the head instead of a normal treat. Sometimes the treat is a bit of chicken, bologna, or cheese. Sometimes there’s just no treat.
Giving treats like this may be cute, but repetition leads to expectation. This mistake is the reason why people argue that treat-trained dogs won’t work without incentive. But if you vary and randomize treats, your dog is always wondering what’s next and they’ll listen to you consistently.
You don’t have to buy tons of different treats or food rewards to treat your dog either. Dogs absolutely love to be:
- Looked at
- Talked to
Things as simple as sweetly talking to your dog, petting them, and showing them some attention are great rewards in their eyes.
You Can Use Dinner As A Treat For Good Behavior
Of course, we’re not saying to withhold their dinner as punishment or anything like that. We just recommend incorporating their dinner as a reward to reinforce good behavior. Why not use all the tools you have at your disposal?
A really easy way to do this is to bring their dinner with you on a walk. Instead of just feeding them at 6:00 pm sharp every night, you can take them for a walk at 5:30. Every time a car, stranger or another dog shows up tell them to sit and give them a piece of kibble for obeying.
By the time your walk is done you’ve fed them all the kibble for good behavior. You’ve just:
- Fed your dog dinner
- Trained your dog
- Got your dog’s walk done
You can go home and relax knowing that you’ve knocked out all three at once.
How To Properly Time Your Treats
Now that you know how to give treats, and the different things you can use as treats, let’s address the specific times to give your dog a treat.
When you want to praise good behavior. When you see your dog do something that you want them to repeat, treat them. You’d be surprised at what dogs can do for a little treat and some reinforcement!
Use treats to reinforce old behaviors and ensure consistency. If you know your dog understands “sit” or “come” but isn’t always doing it, give them treats when they behave. This will get them on track towards consistent good behavior.
Teaching your dog new behaviors. A good example of this is using kibble to train “leave it.” You can tell your dog to sit then begin setting kibble in front of them. If they go for the kibble, remove it. If they don’t, begin adding more kibble to the pile and repeat until eventually they get the whole treat.
Treats are great ways to show your dog that you care and love them, but you have to use them responsibly. If you have any questions about treats or want to see treat-training in action then contact us today and see how we treat, teach, and love our dogs all at the same time!
Dog Treat Nose by Philip Bump
Treat in Mouth by Eli Christman