Whether you’re about to teach a new trick or practice loose leash walking with your pup,
it’s important to reward him or her for a job well done. We all expect to be paid for work we do,
and our dogs should be paid as well.
Here are five tips to make sure that you’re choosing just the right treat for training your dog.
- Size matters! To get the most out of your training sessions, look for a treat that is
small or can easily be broken into smaller pieces so that your dog can eat them
quickly and you can move on to the next behavior. Ideally, the treat should be
about the size of a pencil eraser. Using small treats also ensures that your pup can
get more treats in a session without filling up… or without worrying about
- Make it a “high value” treat! Dogs are like people, they’re all different! Some
dogs will be thrilled with any treat you give them while others may be more
“selective.” It’s extremely important to discover what treat your dog values above all others.
This way, you can use the higher value treats for rewarding the more difficult
behaviors you’re teaching, and use the lower value treats for easier tasks. To find
out what your dog covets, select six or eight treats and place them in a row, each
one about a foot away from the other, in a straight line. Bring your dog
perpendicular to the row of treats and let him go. See which treat he eats first,
second, all the way to the last treat. Then with your dog out of sight, put the treats
out again, in different order. Bring your dog back in and repeat the process. Do
this exercise a half a dozen times (or more if you’re both having fun), and when
finished you will know which treat your dog values the most!
- Choose healthy! Although an occasional piece of cheese or bit of hotdog
certainly won’t hurt your dog, a better idea would be to choose a treat that’s
specifically made for dogs. Look for healthy ingredients such as chicken, peanut
butter, barley flour, and ground rice, to name just a few. Try to avoid artificial
colors, flavors and preservatives such as BHT and propylene glycol.
- Mix it up! You know your dog’s favorite treat, but make sure you switch up the
treats regularly. No matter how much he loves that treat, your dog may get bored
with the same treat, day after day. To prevent this from happening, rotating
between several of his favorites will help keep your four-legged friend’s interest
longer and will help keep him motivated. A motivated dog is a dog that wants to
do the next behavior!
- Calorie counting.Treat calories can add up in a hurry! When you’re doing a lot
of training and using a lot of treats, you may want to consider reducing his meal
size slightly to account for the extra calories. You can try using lower calorie
treats or even some of his regular kibble, but keep in mind those may not hold his
interest as long.
The most important thing you can remember is to keep training fun!! If you and
your dog are both enjoying the training sessions you’re more likely to stick with
it! Learning new behaviors require time and patience, but training time can be a
wonderful way to bond with your dog. Lastly, always end your training session
on a positive note for you and your dog!
The information given is meant to be helpful and/or education. It is, in no way intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.
Renee Jones, CPDT-KSA, is a certified professional dog trainer, having received instruction from canine behaviorist Dr. Pamela Reid, plus nationally acclaimed trainers: Patricia McConnell, Pia Silvani, and Jean Donaldson, to name a few. She is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She serves as a Pet Marketing and Canine Specialist for JeffersPet and JeffersPet.com.