Anyone Can Train Their Dog – June 2016

Anyone Can Train Their Dog

By Art Hess

The Treat


dogtrainerSince we use positive reward based training, the treat is an important tool in our training. It is firstly a lure to move the dog into a position or through an action, hence it must be highly aromatic, and next it is offered as a reward for performing the task, so it must be tasty, easily ingested, and small and quick to eat. The treat is the “chocolate cake and ice cream” that acts as the motivator which makes the student anxious to repeat the task. Imagine it as a finger tip sized piece of delicious chocolate as opposed to eating a whole chocolate bar. We don’t want our student to be standing there for a minute or so while he consumes the treat and he forgets what he did to earn it in the first place.

We don’t want to lose our training momentum. The treat must also be easy for the trainer to carry and offer. Delicious cheese is a great reward but obviously would get a little gooey in our pocket. I think of treats as being high, medium, and low value. High value is a lure and reward for a new or perhaps more challenging task, while low value would be an everyday acknowledgment of recognition and focus—or a reminder to “pay attention.”

When we first start teaching lure and reward we want a high value treat while the student figures out just what we are doing. As he catches on we can back off to treats of lesser value because we want to save the high value for special occasions and achievements. Our day to day medium value treat is the reward and recognition for performing a familiar task. As we proceed through the learning and mastery of a task we will start with high value as a “jack pot” reward and phase down to medium or lower value.

We sometimes hear people say their dog is not food motivated and for the most part this simply means they haven’t tried enough options. I’ve never met a dog that didn’t like to eat. Occasionally you need to avoid feeding just before training so you set yourself and the dog up to win.

If you have difficulty determining which is the most desirable treat, do a simple taste test. Take four different treats and put them in little piles about two feet apart and introduce the dog to the area. Take note of which he consumes first, second etc. Now remove the dog and put the treats down in different locations and repeat the test. Do this several times and he will show you which is his preferred treat. Unless it happens to be filet mignon, this is your “numero uno” motivator.

So what makes a good training treat? There are many commercial treats available and they vary from basic to pheasant and blueberry flavored. If you are training full time there are lots of other options and I list some below. If you use your imagination I’m sure there are lots more.

Cooked chicken pieces, Dried roasted liver, meat pieces, carnitas, bacon pieces, cheese……………..these would be “high value treats”

Pieces of cookies, biscuits, wheat thins, croutons, chopped carrots, green beans, peanuts or other mixed nuts……….”medium value treats”

Kibble, cat treats, bread crusts etc……………….”low value treats.”

In a future article I will show you how I make 330 pieces of great treats for a buck. Stay tuned.

The important thing is don’t be lazy and chintzy. This is a training process and builds your dog’s habits. Make the effort and your dog will provide you with a lifetime of companionship and enjoyment.

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