When to Give Dog Food Treats

Dog food treats are an excellent training tool. They help motivate your dog to learn behaviors and help reduce fright when your fearful dog is experiencing a new situation. However, just as with any training tool, it's important to use food correctly to avoid becoming dependent on it.

Value of Food Rewards

During the last decade, training methods have changed from correction-heavy methods to positive reinforcement. Rather than waiting for your dog to make a mistake that you can punish, trainers are now encouraging you to show your dog the correct behaviors and use rewards to ensure that desirable behaviors continue.

There are many types of rewards that can be utilized, such as praise, petting and toys, but food is the fastest, most effective means of molding a behavior. Rather than pushing your dog into position, you can use treats and hand signals to lead your dog into the correct position and then put that position on cue.

These methods have improved people's relationship with their dogs, increased training efficiency and made training more fun. However, critics contend that treats have turned training into bribery.

Proper Use of Rewards

To avoid using treats as bribes, the reward needs to come as a surprise. After using the treat as a lure for the first two or three repetitions, the treat should no longer be in your hand but come from your pocket or a secret treat jar on top of the television. This way, the dog isn't sure when he is going to get a treat and will perform the behavior whether he sees the treat or not.

For example, if you are teaching your dog to down, you may have a treat in your hand that you lower to the ground slowly so that your dog will follow your hand and drop into a down. At that point, you say the command, tell your dog how good he is and give him the treat.

After two or three practices, take the treat out of your hand and only use your empty hand to show him how to do it. Once your dog does it, reward him with three or four treats that come from your secret spot. This teaches your dog that a surprise reward could be coming at any time.

Any time an owner complains that the dog will only perform a behavior when he is holding a treat, he used the treat in the hand too long during the training process.

Always praise your dog before giving him a treat. This will increase the value of the praise so that it will be an effective reward on its own.

Once your dog is proficient, stop rewarding every time he performs the behavior. Vary it so that treats come at random. But still toss your dog a treat from time to time. You wouldn't want to go to work every day if you weren't getting paid either, no matter how much you respect your boss.