There are infinite good reasons to give our dogs treats. Sometimes it’s as a reward, an in-between meal snack or even a boredom busting tool to keep them occupied and out of trouble.
No matter the intention, it’s important to know how to spoil your furry friend while creating a standard for etiquette so that you can both enjoy the fun and benefits that result from reinforcing good behavior.
Treats are a powerful influence during training as a key method to reward desired manners in our canine companions. But they can also encourage bad behavior as well. A dog’s perception of receiving a treat is very similar to other forms of affection we shower them with like satisfying belly rubs, a good scratch behind the ears and a supercharged game of fetch. When you give your pup a treat, it sends a signal to their brain that they are doing something that we like at that very moment. It’s easy to inadvertently use positive reinforcement to condone inappropriate behavior.
For instance, if you feed your dog every time he’s barking in the kitchen, you’re giving him a reward for a behavior you want to discourage. If you are trying to teach your dog to perform a task or build better manners, treats are a great way to achieve that behavior, so it’s important that your dog associates reward with a calm, obedient demeanor.
Sometimes, part of our duties as pet parents include activities with our dogs that they may not like. This includes grooming, bathing, medicating, and teeth brushing, among others. Treats can also be a good technique to create positive association after your dog has undergone something not so pleasant.
Skills for Success
Isn’t it amazing how your dog knows when treats are being unleashed from their box, bag or container? Take advantage of his attentiveness and confidently ask him to sit, shake or lie down. Remember to stay calm and collected, as your dog will emulate your energy, and it’s hard for any pup to focus when their best human friend is excessively enthusiastic. Giving dogs treats during various levels of excitement can also confuse them since they’re being rewarded no matter how they act. Also be patient. Once you have your dog’s attention, slowly place the treat near his nose so he can get a whiff of what’s in store, and then let him take it from you gently once he’s successfully done what you’ve asked, or made progress in in his training, followed by lots of praise for positive reinforcement. Conditioning your dog to recognize what type of conduct results in a tasty treat will help you both achieve the desired outcome.
Trying to train your dog to be better on leash? You can get your dog to properly walk beside you (not leading or trying to pull you in different directions) by using treats. The biggest distractions luring your dog during outdoor adventures are new scents, other dogs and unfamiliar people. Having a secret treat stash to help regain your dog’s attention can help make your walks more enjoyable.
Timing is everything when you’re using treats to shape your dog’s behavior. Keep in mind that the treat or reward must occur immediately or your dog might not associate their actions with treating. Also keep your commands short – dogs can’t comprehend sentences. Everyone in the family should use the same commands consistently so your pup can pick up training quicker.
Once your dog has learned new behaviors, treat him intermittently to keep him working for praise.
As much as they’d like to, our dogs can’t come with us everywhere we go. Not only do treats help keep pups content in our absence, but they also offer extra stimulation throughout the day that helps dogs satisfy some of their innate instincts passed down from their wild ancestors – like chewing.