I’ve always been generous with giving treats to my dogs. Sometimes even too generous, causing them to gain weight.
Then I discovered Dr. Ian Dunbar who explained that treats should be tiny. Ti-ny. He likes to use ZiwiPeak and break it each piece in four. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen ZiwiPeak kibble, I’ve seen it on video ’cause we don’t have it in France. But I’m telling you, these treats are already small as they are. And he still breaks them in four.
The point I’m trying to make is, your dog won’t get fat if you give him treats, as long as they’re tiny. Look for puppy treats, they tend to make them smaller. Or you can try kibble for small dogs, which is tiny in comparison to big dog kibble.
I’m a advocate of doing it yourself because you’d make healthier treats with no preservatives. I’d really like to tell how easy and fast it is. But it’s not. Personally, I haven’t been able to consistently bake treats for Bono, as much as I’d love to. But I’m cooking his food, so I’ve got that going on for me 😅
Anyway, let’s move on. Maybe you’re not worried about dog obesity, but you just want your dog to listen to you because he wants to, not because you’re giving him treats.
Guess what, me too. And Bono does what I ask of him because he wants to. I’m using treats to start a behavior. Then as he progresses I fade the treats away. Eventually, I’m only giving him treats once in a while to maintain the behavior.
For example, a few months ago I taught him to close the door. Initially I gave him a treat each time. Then I made sure he really understands, “Bono, the door!” in different contexts. When I’m one step away, two steps away, out of his sight and so on.
Now that he KNOWS the behavior, I only give him a treat sometimes when he closes the door. And I always praise him. I need him to know he’s done a good job and I’m proud of him.
But why can’t praise be enough? Why do we need to use treats to teach a behavior? Because most of us aren’t that good at praising. Myself included, although I’m doing progress. Just saying a blend, “Good dog” doesn’t cut it. If I can’t see the joy on that dog’s face, it means my praise isn’t enthusiastic enough.
What if you can’t tell if your dog feels appreciated? Just measure the results. Did your dog learn the behavior? Is your dog able to perform it under most conditions (including at the park and other distraction filled places)?
If he does, it might mean you’re awesome at praising. In which case you can forget everything I just said.
But if he doesn’t, dare to use treats.
Enjoyed this blog post? Subscribe to get an email update each time I publish a new one.