For most dogs, food is one of the best rewards you could provide, which makes it a very powerful tool for motivating your dog and shaping their behavior.
When training your dog, you are basically asking her to complete a seemingly complicated task for her – understanding verbal and visual cues and then performing the desired action. Keep in mind that while this might seem simple to you, dogs didn’t evolve to communicate this way. But you can make the process of learning a task much easier for them by leveraging something that they really love – food treats.
The following are some expert tips on how to go about training your pooch using food:
Use small treats
When training your dog using food, you need to be very cautious that you do not overdo it. It is very important that your dog maintains a healthy weight. Thus, use small treats or even pieces of treats. Besides, over-fed dogs gradually stop reacting to food as positive reinforcement.
Reward calm and submissive behaviors
You need to keep in mind that whichever behavior you reward, the dog will repeat it. Be careful that you do not reinforce hyperactive behavior. Only give the treats when your dog demonstrates good behavior.
Do not bribe your dog
The last thing you want is your dog learning to respond to a command but she will only do it if she knows she will get a treat afterward. Treats should primarily serve as a way to get your dog’s attention during the early stages of their training. You should avoid over-relying on them, rather complement them with other methods of reinforcement such as giving your affection and attention. Why not shop pet food online at Discount Pet Supplies.
Reward each action that contributes to good behavior
One of the most common mistakes that people make is trying to get their pooch to complete an entire task before giving the treat and get disappointed when they don’t get the desired results. What you need to do is to reward progress whether big or small. In most cases during the early stages, the progress is usually accidental on the dog’s part.
For example, let’s say you want to train your dog to sit. If he only lowers his butt a bit and doesn’t complete the action, give him a treat. If he does the same thing again, give him a treat again. With time, your dog will figure out what you are intending with the treat. You can then withhold the treats until he gets his butt closer to the ground until he is finally able to sit.
“Fade the lure”
This approach will help you avoid the previously discussed situation of treats becoming a bribe. Here, you give the treats only a few times to entice your dog to perform the action you want, then use the same cues to make them repeat the same action but without showing him the treats.
If he successfully completes the task without knowledge of the treat, use verbal encouragement such as ‘good dog’ and then give him the treat using the other hand. As time goes, start giving the treats only randomly then stop giving them entirely.
Give treats where you want your dog to be
As discussed earlier, any action that precedes a treat will be reinforced. This also applies to your dog’s position. For example, if you give your dog a treat for lying down, they will associate this position with a reward. On the other, if you give her a treat after she pops up excitedly, this will be repeated.
Get rid of distractions
Dogs, by nature, can be easily distracted. If you are having problems getting your pooch to pay attention to food, it is likely that there is something more interesting within the environment, for example, kids playing, ice cream trucks, etc. Choose a suitable spot where your dog’s attention will only be on you and the food.
Try different treats
Another reason that you may struggle to train your dog using food is your dog’s taste in food. Perhaps the treats you are using aren’t tasteful enough to excite the dog or motivate the behavior you want. Try out a different type of treat until you identify the one that gets their attention.
Try clicker training
By combining giving a treat with the sound made by a clicker, your dog will learn to associate this sound with a reward, and with time, you can completely stop giving the treat and stick to the clicker.