WHAT DO YOU USE FOR DOG TRAINING TREATS?
I hear this question quite often. I’m also always on the lookout for new training treat options. So, I decided to launch MFF (My Fantastic Friend) Tidbits. Each week, I will post a different treat option and relevant tips on Facebook. Griffin, Gus and Pippi will also weigh in with their ratings using the Yum-o-Meter scale of “meh.” to “yum!” You’ll be able to view the whole collection with the hashtag #MFFtidbits.
WE USE TREATS A FEW WAYS IN DOG TRAINING.
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 also an incredibly powerful form of reinforcement, like a paycheck. As you probably know, there are many other forms, such as chasing a ball, playing a game of tug, going into the back yard, sniffing an interesting spot on a walk, and so on. However, food serves as the best paycheck for many dogs. Food is very efficient and effective. You can train much more quickly using treats. When the consequence of a behavior is the delivery of a mouth-watering morsel, dogs are motivated to repeat the behavior that earned them the delectable reward.
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.
Remember to follow us on Facebook to get your weekly MFF Tidbit. I hope you and your dog have a great time discovering new things together!