One of the greatest things about a dog is how well they can be trained. If you can find the right way to train your beloved pooch, then you can get them to do a huge number of things. Sure, some dogs are smarter and more easily trainable than others, but they’re all born and bred to be domestic.
One of the tools people often use to train their dogs in obedience training is snacks and treats. They get their dog to do something; they give their dog a treat, and the dog gets the idea that they should do the thing you’ve taught them to do also to get a treat the next time around. We habituate them to do what we want and reward them for good behaviour.
Dogs, of course, love food, so rewarding them in this way is going to be especially effective.
However, there is a problem with treats and snacks. If you’re not careful, your dog might decide that there’s no reason to do the trick without getting that treat!
Obviously, that defeats the purpose of training the dog. So how can you use the treats correctly? In addition, what are the best treats to use?
Using the treats properly takes care and attention to your dog’s reaction to what you are doing. To start, you’ll need to use them every time. Often times, you’ll need to walk your dog through the thing you want them to do step by step.
Something as simple as “sit” or “heel” is easy enough. But if you want them to fetch your slippers or close the door, for example, you might need to start by holding the slippers out for the dog, telling them to get your slippers, and then they pick the slippers up in their mouths, giving them a treat.
In the example of training your dog to close the door, simply place the treat behind the door so the dog sees exactly where you put it, but at the same time, command him to “stay”, while you put the treat in place. Then, after getting your dog to wait for a minute or so, train him to react to the command, “Close the door”, which lets the dog know he can go to more the door out of the way with his paw in order to get the treat.
Here is a more detailed video showing you how to teach your dog to close the door.
Essentially, in the beginning, they’ll need constant reinforcement. Once they start indicating that they have a grasp on what they’re supposed to do, you should begin giving them fewer treats. Maybe start with every other time, and then after a week or so switch to every third time.
However, dogs also respond very well to praise as they often want to please their owner. So, as you begin giving your dog fewer treats, you should increase the praise with a “good boy” and a pet to let your dog know he’s done well.
Eventually, you’ll want to give them a treat for generally being a good dog, instead of specifically doing that trick. Otherwise, they’ll equate doing the trick with getting the treat, and may not do the trick if you don’t provide your part of the bargain.
As for what treats to use, go for something small and healthy. You don’t want to replace their meal with a treat, after all. It should also be something your dog recognizes as a treat. So perhaps something special, that you don’t usually give your dog but your dog knows it’s okay to eat and wants to eat. Once you get that under control, you’ll be well on your way to training a good dog.