Dogs display behavior based on their experience they associate with that behavior. If a behavior had resulted in a positive outcome for them, they are more likely to repeat it.
Contrary to popular belief dogs don’t follow our command to make us happy. They do it for their own benefits and safety.
So, if you want a obedient, reliable dog then you must make pleasant experience for your dog every time he/she follows your cues and commands. But how do you reward your dog for good behavior?
Although every dog is different, treat always works for almost all dogs.It is undoubtedly preferred reward by dog but treat is not only your option. For some dogs going out for walk, game of fetch, getting favorite toy or just some extra praise are rewarding enough.
It is important to note that treat should be used for reinforcing good behavior not as bribe. Bribery is very ineffective in maintaining desirable behavior in dog.
Dog owners can easily fall into trap of using treat as bribe rather than reward for good behavior.
If your dog doesn’t follow your command then don’t offer treat to him/her to follow command. It should only be given after he/she has followed your command not before.
You can hide treats until the command is completed.
You can use treat to entice your dog to follow command as long as you remove it from the process. Treat should only play minimal role in getting your dog into desired behavior.
Once your dog understands the command and gets into the action, hide the treats immediately. Your dog should see no relation between treats and their response to command.
Use small size treat
During training, any treats given to dog should be small and easily chewable. Giving large size treats to dogs disrupts the training process as they take time to finish their treats. Such disruptions can cause dog to lose concentration and interest in training.
Consider giving treats that are relatively soft and about the size of pea. Dogs are more excited by the frequency of treats they get rather than by the size of the treats.
Don’t constantly reward treat
During initial stage, rewarding your dog with treat for getting every job done can be quite effective. However, beware that over rewarding can cause treat to loose its appeal to your dog. Also, when pet parents are in habit of constantly rewarding their dog they often go way overboard with treats resulting in pet with overweight health conditions. It is generally advised that treat should not make more than 10 percent of dog’s diet.
Phase out treats
Once your dog adapts to training and to your command, you can gradually phase out treats because it is impractical to reward dog for every command they follow. You also want a dog who follows command in the absence of treat. However, you must be cautious about how you phase out treats. If not done properly any gain from the training will be lost and behavior of dog will deteriorate over time.
During training if you are getting 90% success rate with your command then it is your cue to initiate phasing out treats. Reduce the regularity of the treats and mix it with praise,petting or rub on the belly. Taking dog for walk, playing game of fetch, giving his/her favorite toy are all great rewards that you can substitute with treats. Added bonus of these rewards is that they strengthen your bond with your dog.
Since dogs are trained with skills that aren’t natural behavior of dog, if we don’t practice continually it will simply be forgotten. It is mistake to presume that once dog learns the trick it will stay for life. Occasional practice session is required to keep learned command fresh in dog’s mind. During such refresher session you should keep the pattern of mixing treat with other rewards.
No doubt treats are easiest and quickest way to make dog work with us.This makes it a valuable asset in any dog training but you should restrain from overusing it. Over rewarding will lead to your dog following command only when he/she knows you have treat. An example of bribery. You should discourage this behavior at all costs. Treats are for reinforcing good behavior not a bribe to follow command.
At the end,remember to phase out treat.You can’t always rely on them but occasional treats are fine.