Tricks for Treats: Using Treats Properly for Dog Training

Sit. Roll over. Stay. Will your dog ever be able to master and obey these commands without dog training? Most likely not.

Dogs instinctively look for leadership because of their pack mentality. So, the leader—you—must take charge and discipline them. Otherwise, they would be compelled to try to lead, which can cause behavioral issues like barking or pulling on their leashes.

That is also why dog training is essential, whether you do it in your own Spanish Fork residence or you send them to a dog training facility in the area. During this period, you’ll find out that treats are a powerful motivator for dogs.

Why Should You Use Food Treats in Dog Training?

Training dogs means asking them to complete what might be a difficult or unfamiliar task they wouldn’t normally do. Similar to how you receive a paycheck when you go to work, it’s only fair that dogs get paid in their preferred currency—dog treats—for a job well done.

Other treats dogs enjoy are play and praise. And while these two are also essential in training, food treats are simply easier to use. Since dog food typically comes in small pieces, you can give them easily to your puppy when they do a good job, resulting in a high number of repetitions within a short period.

When Does a Treat Become a Bribe?

If you don’t know how to use dog treats properly, though, your dog’s training may not be effective. Instead of you training your pooch to obey commands, they might be the one training you to give them treats by refusing to follow without a reward. This is when treats, which should only be used to reinforce their good behavior, become a bribe.

Using food as a reinforcement of good behavior means paying your pup for obeying your command. For example, you train your pup to sit and, when they do, you give them a treat. Now, you repeat the command and give them a treat once again for following it. The goal is to make them sit with the hope to get a reward, not because they know a reward is guaranteed.

A treat becomes a bribe when the latter happens. When you tell them to sit and they don’t obey until you show them there’s a treat waiting? That’s bribery and it must be avoided. This makes training ineffective because they won’t follow your cues otherwise.

How to Use Treats in Training

With all of that said, you can try the following steps when training your dog so they learn how to follow commands with or without a treat:

  1. Consistently use treats in the beginning

Remember, you’re trying to reinforce positive behavior and rewarding them is the way to do that.

  1. Treat them with affection and praise

Dogs love affection, so this makes for a good reward, too. Affirm them when they follow a command with an enthusiastic “Yes!” or “Good boy/girl!” You can also give them a belly rub or a hug.

  1. Randomize your reward

Once your dog has mastered following your commands, begin to reward them randomly. Mix in verbal praise with food treats or pet them. Then, gradually lessen the reward, especially the food treats, until they obey a command simply because you told them to.

With consistency and proper reward-giving, your beloved pet will soon learn how to follow commands easily.