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Using treats to train your dog

Updated on January 10, 2009

Trick or treat? How treats help dogs perform tricks


Dogs can be easily trained to do the most amazing tricks if  only the owners knew a bit about dog psychology. All it really takes is to think as a dog and think about what keeps a dog's interest alive and well focused. If dogs could talk they would readily respond: treats!

With their noses equipped with over 200 million receptors, it is no wonder why dogs drool at the simple sight of food. Training sessions, therefore, become a very look forwarded to event when a pocket is full of special treats. However, treats are not always recommended especially in dogs that are obese or suffer from specific health ailments.

It is best to alternate treats at times with other rewards such as favorite toys, praise or a simple scratch behind the ears or a dog's favorite spot. Dogs are pretty easy to please and many times these alternatives to treats will do. More and more pet stores carry nowadays, special treats with low calories and fat content for dogs on diets. There are also treats especially designed for dogs suffering from diabetes.

Dogs are taught at an early age to accept treats. Puppies generally learn early their first commands such as "sit, stay and come" with some sort of food item. A puppy will quickly come towards the owner if his name is called while dangling a slice of cheese or will sit if the treat is raised high causing the puppy to look up and bring his wiggly behind under himself.

Generally, it is best to keep some high value treats for special occasions or for highly distracting situations. High value treats are treats that your dog gets only seldom and that your dog is very eager to receive. High value treats are generally hot dogs, chunks of cheese, pieces of chicken or steak or freeze dried liver. Each dog will have its favorites and each owner will know what their dog craves best.

Treats can be used on walks to distract the dog from certain situations. For instance, if your dog tends to bark and lunge at trucks, you can have your dog sit right before the truck is approaching and attract his/her attention by holding a treat up high. The dog will look at it and once the truck has passed the treat can be given. The truck will be ignored and the treat will be readily gulped down.

This type of distraction can be used for various different scenarios and the dog will learn quickly that there are more interesting things to pay attention to. Not only, dogs may also eventually start to associate the trucks or other source of fear with the treat and no longer react to them after a while. The dog may actually look forward to the next challenge as he/she looks for his/her tasty treat!

Treats may work wonders in training. Treats provide enthusiasm, motivation and interest to commands that otherwise may appear repetitive and dull in a dog's eyes. Working for a treat brings dogs back to the old days where they had to work for their food by hunting and stalking their prey.

Dogs deserve treats for a job well done and I am sure if dogs could talk they would be agreeing fully with such statement.    Rewards are tasty gifts and the after math of a dog's attentive response. There is no better way to say "thank you" to a dog, than by handing a mouth watery treat, and this perfectly makes sense, after all, even humans would be reluctant to go to work if they were not paid!


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