In teaching our dogs good behavior, it can be hard to communicate what you’d like your dog to do in a way they understand. While they’re certainly aware of our emotions, at the end of the day, your dogs’ motivation to do something will be based on their primal desires, like food. Negative reinforcement is never as powerful as positive reinforcement, so treats are often a good way to tell your dog they’re doing something you’d like them to do. To add some method to the madness, here our are top 5 tips for using treats to effectively train your dog.
1. Break the training into steps, then reward your dog when they complete a step.
Your dog isn’t going to just roll over the first time you tell them. You need to break the process down and reward them along the way. So if, after saying “roll over”, your dog lays down, that deserves a treat. Once they’re able to regularly lay down on command, then move to having them roll over.
2. Remove distractions.
Squirrels in the park or music and other conversation in the house are going to distract your dog from the task at hand. Train your dog in a quiet area that they feel comfortable in. Make sure they’ve had food and water beforehand, and that you feel good too.
2. Use treats sparingly and only for rewarding good behavior after the fact.
Our treats are all-natural, with simple ingredients, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them in moderation! For more complicated tricks that need repeated reinforcement, break a treat into pieces. If you over-feed your pet with treats, they also may view the treat as a bribe and demand the treat to complete the command, instead of just associating the behavior they have learned with positive feelings. Once your dog gets the hang of a trick, begin to use treats more sparingly. Work your way from a treat for every completed trick to intermittently removing the treat from the equation, then continue to pare down until they’re rarely receiving the treat, but instinctually complete the command.
4. Mix up the types of treats you use.
Your dog will get tired of the same treats after a while… So mix it up! Alternate with our brew biscuit flavors, pumpkin, bacon and beef broth, or our different grain-free, gluten free options. You could even sneak a meal topper pouch in when needed!
5. Don’t forget to have fun!
At the end of the day, we all want a happy, well-behaved dog. If things get frustrating, don’t raise your voice or act angry- that can be taken as negative reinforcement from your dog and make them avoid the positive behavior you were trying to teach them in the first place. If things get frustrating, take a break, make sure your pup is relaxed and can focus, then start again.
Does your dog know cool tricks? Share them with us on Instagram and Facebook using #MyPortlandPup. At the end of the month, we’ll choose one dog to win a Portland Pet Food Company gift box.