A strong training foundation is super important for puppies. Learning how to heel, sit, and stay gives puppies the confidence to move on to other, more difficult tasks. There is no more important time in developing a dog’s foundation than when he is young, and using treats is a very effective tool in that process.
But owners should be cautious, because overloading a puppy with treats can lead to weight gain. Here are a few tips for how to approach treat-oriented training while keeping your dog fit and healthy.
Keep it Positive
“When a puppy is young and learning we want those experiences to be always positive,” says Dr. Ira McCauley, a Team Eukanuba Veterinarian. “Treats can be a major cornerstone when training puppies. They help puppies progress quickly by making learning fun.”
“Avoid pressuring puppies if they don’t correctly perform an unfamiliar command,” McCauley says. “Teach them what you want them to do, and when they do it correctly reward that behavior with a treat. Treats build rapport, encourage pups to bond with their owners, and help pups realize owners are on their side.” Dr. McCauley also notes that treats like Eukanuba’s ACTIVTRAINERS are designed with DHA for healthy brain function.
Double the Reward
Just handing your dog a treat and casually saying “good dog,” works, but what works better is giving them an additional reward. Being happy, energetic, and excited when your puppy does something right adds another layer to their reward.
“The treat is only half the equation,” says Dr. McCauley. “Showing praise and loving them up reinforces that positive behavior even more.” In time, this makes your pup eager to cooperate. It also allows you to reward the pup with your praise and not rely solely on a treat.
“Treats can continue to play a role in training as a dog matures,” he adds. “Just less often as the dog learns and develops. We also want to reward our pups with healthy treats that are consistent with their regular diet.” Low-calorie treats like Eukanuba’s line of training treats are a way to reward a dog without him putting on extra weight. Treats should not exceed 10% of your dog’s total daily caloric intake.
Using a Treat to Teach Hand Signals
Dr. McCauley also recommends using treats as a way to introduce hand signals. By using your dog’s food drive, handlers can change a pup’s body position while they are focused on the treat. Treats are an easy way to teach things like sit, heel, and place.
“Using a treat gets a pup’s focus on the handler,” he says. “Use that treat to lead them or get them to do what you want. For example, if you hold the treat up high and move it back over their head the dog will naturally sit to keep the treat in view. Do that while giving the sit command and the dog will eventually catch on to the idea.”
After the pup knows the meaning of the command, keep the treat out of sight and reward them after they have properly performed the task. You have now developed a hand signal that can be used by itself or to reinforce a verbal command.
Treats are a great way to build a bond with your pup while helping him learn new skills. Selecting a low-calorie training treat is a smart way to keep him fit while he’s mastering all his new tricks.View Dr. Ira McCauley's Profile & Articles