It’s a simple fact of life that dogs are impossibly adorable, and that makes them great at getting their way. Because of this, you may be tempted to give your own doggo a treat just because. Don’t give in to those puppy dog eyes! Giving Spot a treat, or any dog food, without having a reason behind doing so is not a great idea.
A vital part of a dog’s life is being able to train with you and learn, even later on in age. How do you successfully train him? By rewarding him for good behavior, of course! This is where treats come into play, and it is why you should reserve these yummy snacks for a job well done.
Today, you are going to learn exactly what you should do before gifting your furry friend with a treat and examples of how this procedure can be done properly.
The Importance of Positive Reinforcement
The method of rewarding your pup with a treat throughout training is called “positive reinforcement.” Unlike other more harmful methods that punish undesirable behavior, you are using positive reactions and training treats to encourage your dog to learn commands and make a habit out of good behavior.
Here are some of the reasons why positive reinforcement is important to the overall success of training and the wellbeing of your dog:
1. It is more effective
When you use other training methods like punishment with a shock collar, your dog will only learn to fear you and do what you say out of anxiety. When you are not around, bad behaviors may come back to the surface. With positive reinforcement training, dogs will listen to their pet owners’ commands and learn new behaviors because they want to, not because they have to. Teach your dog this way, and he will want to make you happy! The best part is that your pup will likely continue to behave while you are gone. That means no more coming home to destroyed furniture.
2. It strengthens your bond
If you are constantly threatening your pup with physical or emotional pain, you can never form a bond of trust. This aversive training will make him adverse not only to undesirable behaviors but to you as well. No one wants that! When you get a dog, you want a faithful friend. Dogs love to be praised and admired for their good behavior, just as us humans do! So if you want to be his friend, gain his trust by being loving and encouraging during training instead of becoming his drill sergeant.
3. Your dog will look forward to it
Training your dog through positive reinforcement is almost like playtime for puppies and dogs, but they learn a lot in the process. If your little animal is looking forward to training because you will be bonding and he will be getting a reward, you can help him learn commands and behaviors faster!
If you are ready to go forward with the positive reinforcement method of training, you are going to need some examples of how it works. When you have these to guide you, training your pup the right way will become a piece of cake!
Examples of Positive Reinforcement Training
Need to know when to give your dog a treat while training? Look no further. These examples of commands learned with the positive reinforcement method will help you get a starting point.
Command #1: Sit
This is one of the most food-heavy lessons that your dog will be learning when going through basic training. It is also a fundamental command that will serve you both well throughout his life! Go through the steps with him every day until he has the command down.
- Hold a treat in one of your hands and kneel down in front of your puppy.
- Let him smell the treat, but do not let him eat one just yet.
- Lift the hand with the treat in it or hold it behind the puppy’s ear.
- Say “sit” as the pup’s bottom touches the ground while he searches for his reward.
- Every time he correctly does this, say “sit” again.
- When he does sit down on command and stays, give him the treat and some verbal encouragement.
- Repeat this until the dog can perform this command without needing a treat.
Note that for training treats, you’ll want something small and light, so that you’re not increasing your puppy’s calorie intake too much (which could lead to weight gain). Homemade dog treats with whole foods (like chicken, sweet potato, or liver) are a great option!
Command #2: Stay
Once the puppy can sit, you should teach him to stay. You can train this command using treats, too!
- Get him to sit with the “sit” command.
- When he does so, put out your hand in a “stop” gesture and say “stay.”
- Walk back a few paces. If he stays, reward him with a treat and more encouragement or physical affection.
- Repeat the process, moving a little further back each time. Each time the puppy stays for longer amounts of time, reward him. Eventually, you can say “stay” and he will without a reward.
Command #3: Down
The command “down” just means that you want your dog to lie down. That can be boring to a puppy who is full of energy, so training him to do so with treats will make the process a lot easier. Here’s how you do it:
- Put a treat in your hand and let the pup see it and smell it.
- Close your fist and let him smell it again.
- Lower your hand to the floor; as your hand falls, so will your dog’s head.
- When he does lie down fully, say “down.”
- Give him a treat and other affection.
- Repeat the process until the command is learned.
For more training exercises that you can do with your dog, visit PupBox’s guide on the first five commands to teach your puppy!
Why Your Dog Needs to Earn His Treat
So why should you not give Spot a treat just because he looks at you with those big, pitiful eyes? Because you will ruin all of the progress you built in training! If you just give your dog treats whenever you feel like it, the rewarding feeling that comes with learning new things will go away and will hold little interest in the future.
If you want your dog’s training to go well and you want him to retain all that he has learned, you will make him earn that reward! It is better for both of you in the long run when your pal is well-behaved and well adjusted.