Today, we’re going to go over the best ways to use dog treats for training. You’ll learn 4 surefire ways to maximize their effectiveness, so that all your efforts and food aren’t going to waste. Let’s get started…
Everyone knows someone with a dog that absolutely refuses to pay attention unless there is food around. Perhaps worse, are dogs that will not listen no matter what, even when offered a treat. (Am I hitting close to home here?)
It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like the only way to get your pup to listen to you is to basically bribe them with food rewards. But we’re going to fix that, and the good news is it’s nowhere near as complicated as you’ve probably imagined.
Here are four excellent tips I’ve picked up from leading dog obedience trainer Doggy Dan that will really transform the way you go about training and motivating your dog.
Tip #1: Vary size when using dog treats for training
This one is so simple that you’re going to wonder why it never occurred to you before. Your dog will be much more motivated and eager for food rewards when you vary the size of the treat.
Basically, you’ll get much more bang for your buck if you give your dog a couple of small treats followed up by a single big treat rather than you just giving small (or big) treats all the time.
It sounds like such a ridiculously easy change to make that it couldn’t work, but it really does I assure you. Think about when you or people you know have tried and failed with using dog treats for training in past… same size and treat each time I bet, right?
So now that you see that keeping things random and surprising for your dog is important, let’s get into why…
Think about when you’ve known you were going to be given a present vs. when you actually received the present. When was the anticipation and excitement the greatest? Before you got the gift, with it reaching its peak right before opening your present!
It works the same way with the lottery. You buy a ticket and all week long you are hearing about this massive jackpot. Your head fills with wonder thinking of all the amazing things you could do with that money.
It builds and builds until the numbers are announced and…. you realize you did NOT when the jackpot.
But yet that next week you’ll be right back there ready to play again. And why is that? Because we want that big jackpot!
Just that tiny tiny chance that you might win something is enough to keep you and millions of other people coming back week after week despite never getting the ultimate payoff.
And things are no different for your dog. If you call your dog to come to you and randomly you give them the biggest, tastiest treat they could ever imagine they’ll remember it for quite some time.
That next few weeks, I’d bet large amounts of money that your training would go wonderfully.
You need to keep them second guessing. Wondering if this is going to be one of those lucky times where they get a big delicious treat. Do this and your dog will be ultra-motivated to please.
Obviously, you should be careful of overfeeding here. If you haven’t read my previous article on dog training treats yet, I would do so soon as I’ve got some tips that will help you avoid overdoing things when you use dog treats for training.
But just to conclude on this point, vary the size/amount of the treats you’re using. Your dog will be much more motivated and your training much more successful when you break out of the one dog biscuit for one good trick routine.
Tip #2: Slice up your dog treats
This second tip builds upon the first. We’ve already discussed the value of randomly using “jackpot” treats with your dog, but you can make them even more effective extremely easily.
All you need to do is chop it up into smaller pieces. If you’re using a piece of sausage, for example, you might try slicing it up into four separate pieces.
When it comes time to train and you want to reward with a jackpot treat, reward your dog by giving them each of the pieces one right after another. Don’t try another command, just give them the next piece as soon as they finish the last one.
Let’s talk about why this works, and why it is more effective than just giving them the large treat all at once. We’ve all fed our dogs something tasty and seen how quickly they eat it, right? Lightning fast, just like with small treats.
So when you cut up your treat and give it to them one right after the next, your dog will not believe their luck! To them, it’s like they’re getting 4 or 5 big treats rather than just one. They get many amazing rewards for obeying a single command rather than just one.
Tip #3: Choose your dog’s food rewards carefully
Let me ask you this: would you rather have a piece of chocolate cake or apple pie? What you would actually choose isn’t important, but I bet you knew right away which would be your choice.
And your dog is no different! Dogs, just like people, are going to have their favorites. The best dog treats for training will be different from dog to dog, but I’m sure you know your pup well enough to know their preferences.
Using a food reward that they absolutely love will get you better results than something that they just enjoy. Both can be effective and work, but your results will come much faster if you use the food that motivates them the most.
But don’t just stop once you’ve decided what your dog’s favorite training treat would be, take it to the next level by being creative.
Would your dog just go crazy for a large dog biscuit smeared with peanut butter? Maybe your dog doesn’t like biscuits but would love some nice bits of chicken.
Just a note here: there’s plenty of healthy treats out there, so don’t be afraid to try those. But if your dog’s jackpot treat is super fatty or just plain not healthy, that’s fine, just be extra careful that you’re not giving them too often.
Tip #4: Remember your end goal
What all of these ultimately boil down to is that it’s incredibly important to keep things random when using dog treats for training. Remember that the end goal is to fade out their use until you are giving them only on rare occasion.
Use these four tips and you should see much better results when you train with dog treats. If you like this approach, you can find more on this and everything else you need to know at Dan’s site. He has an excellent free video series I’d recommend you start watching right away.
P.S. Make sure to pin this for when you need a refresher! :))