WHAT HAPPENED TO MFF TIDBITS: TRAINING TREAT IDEAS?
Every week or so, we used to post a training treat idea and tag it as #MFFtidbits on Facebook and Instagram. Each post included ratings of the treat by our three dogs. When our senior dog Griffin passed away, it was just too hard to continue with the posts. It’s now several months later and it’s still difficult, but we’re ready to start them up again. We’ll still include Griffin’s ratings for treats he had tried. That’s Griffin in the picture below, ridiculously excited about some freshly baked tuna fudge!
WHY SHARE TRAINING TREAT IDEAS?
If we could change anything, it would be to add more enjoyment and fabulous stuff to Griffin’s life, not less. Here are a few more benefits to using treats!
Food is an incredibly powerful form of motivation, like a paycheck that keeps you coming back to work. When a dog performs a requested behavior and is given the consequence of a mouth-watering morsel, they are motivated to repeat the behavior that earned them the delectable reward. Other types of rewards include chasing a ball, playing a game of tug, going into the back yard, sniffing an interesting spot on a walk, and so on. However, you can train much more quickly using food and it is the best paycheck for many dogs.
For some new behaviors, food is used as a lure, to show our dogs what we would like them to do. It is important to fade the food lure as soon as possible. Fading the lure and keeping food out of site (like behind your back or in your pocket) are good practices to help your dog learn to do what you’ve requested, even when food is not visibly present.
Food is used to create positive associations. For example, if your dog has never worn a harness, it is a good idea to condition your dog to like the harness. You would do this by splitting “harness wearing” up into small increments. The first step might be to show the harness to your dog. You would then deliver some fantastic goodies and happy talk. Sometime later that day, you would repeat this process. The harness predicts a party of delicious snacks. Once your dog sees the harness, then looks happily and expectantly for his fabulous treats, you might move to the next step of placing the harness partway over your dog’s head. You could use a similar process (called counter conditioning and desensitization) if your dog is afraid of something, such as nail clippers. And guess what? The use of food in training creates a positive association with training, the trainer, the training space…
VALUE (THE “MEH” OR “YUM” METER)
Different foods have different values to your dog. Although dry kibble might be sufficient at home when working on easy behaviors, a higher value training treat is needed when working around distractions and with important or difficult-for-your-dog-to-do behaviors. (Coming when called, perhaps…with a pesky squirrel in the yard.) High value treats are also necessary when working to change emotions and associations (see previous paragraph).
A FEW QUICK POINTS
- Mix it up! Variety is good and keeps things interesting.
- Balance out the calories by feeding a little less at meals.
- You can use some or all of your dog’s meals as training treats.
- Soft and stinky treats tend to be higher value.
- You get what you pay! Behaviors that are reinforced are more likely to be repeated.