You’ve probably wondered before if using dog training treats was cheating. As in, sure they’re doing what I want, but isn’t this just bribing them? Surely it can’t work long-term, can it?
Well, I’m here to tell you today that despite what you’ve been told, training your dog using dog treats can be incredibly effective. But you must do things in the right way, or you’re only wasting both you and your pup’s time.
The good thing is, that as difficult as the topic seems to understand it’s actually pretty simple to master and an incredibly powerful tool in your dog training arsenal once you have done so.
Some of the things we’re going to go over together might seem surprising at first, but I assure you that everything will all make sense at the end.
I’ll probably contradict lots and lots of things you’ve heard from friends or while chatting at the dog park, but that’s to be expected. Getting dog training tips from other owners is more often than not going to lead you down the wrong road.
But once you’ve learned how to properly use dog treats for training you and your pup will have a better understanding and appreciation for each other.
Now, let’s get started…
“You should never use dog training treats”
Wait, what? I thought this was supposed to be about training with dog treats???”
Don’t worry, it is! I’m just giving you a line you’ve probably heard before. Now, let’s look at why it’s wrong.
The idea behind this type of thinking is that if you use food rewards with your dog while training, they will only respond to your commands if you bribe them with a treat.
Doggy Dan, the well-known instructor from The Online Dog Trainer starts out by using food rewards with each dog he trains. And yet these dogs learn to obey commands whether he has treats for them or not.
(We’ll talk more about how he does this very soon in this same article.)
So using food rewards for dogs is okay?
Yep! You just need to do it correctly. It’s really very simple. You can start out using food rewards with your dog because once your dog has learned to respond to your command without thinking about it, you just slowly taper off using them.
Learning how to taper off or vary your dog’s food rewards during training is very important. You’ll also see people calling them random rewards.
You start by rewarding your pup with their dog training treats by giving it to them from your hand, with it hidden so that they cannot see it. Next, you will begin to vary when they get their treat.
For example, you start out giving them their treat every time. Next, you progress to giving it to them every other time before moving on to every third time and so on and so on.
Before you long you will be able to space out your treat rewards until they are unusual enough that they are truly random rewards. Master this and your dog will be 100% focused on awaiting your commands, without using up your food too quickly.
But my dog should be happy just obeying commands
I’ve heard this many many times and it’s almost always from someone who has little to no experience with training dogs. (But that’s okay, I completely understand the mindset.)
And unfortunately, there are many people who believe this not because they are inexperienced, but because their experience is only with training dogs through fear or aggression.
RELATED: How to Stop Dog Aggression
This old-school approach — that our pups should just be obedient OR ELSE — just does not fly. It’s not effective and will create more problems than it solves.
Look at it this way if you’re still on the fence with using food rewards for dog training: would you work for free?
Absolutely not! You may like your boss, but you’re not going to stick around for long at all if you aren’t getting rewarded for your hard work.
And our dogs are no different!
Give your pup no dog training treats when you start training and they will soon see that their hard work gets them nothing in return. Very quickly they will get bored with working so hard and getting nothing back from you.
Do all dogs need food rewards to learn?
No! While most dogs will get bored and quit working if they are not rewarded, there are still plenty of dogs that are just happy to please you. With these pups, giving them dog training treats is a nice bonus but not necessary for learning.
But for your dog that is not so easily satisfied with a rub on the head or a toss of the ball, using food rewards while training will provide serious benefits of which you would be crazy not to take advantage.
Won’t too many dog treats hurt their health?
Obviously, you do not want to overfeed your dog for many reasons. But there’s a very simple solution that will ensure you never overdo when you are using treats to train your dog.
When you are going to train, just take the dog training treats you will use out of their normal dinner. This way, the total amount your dog eats during the day will not change and you will still have something rewarding to use during your training.
There are still many things to learn about using food to reward your dog properly, of course. And the first place I recommend whenever people ask is Doggy Dan’s site that I mentioned earlier.
He covers basically everything you could want to know about dog training in his course (currently 250+ videos). Best of all, you can start watching right now by watching his free video series.
He’ll run through all you need to know about this and many other subjects. Again, go visit Dan’s site and watch his free videos now. I’m very confident you’ll find them helpful, so I would definitely go take a look.