Vicky Lawes ACFBA MGoDT (MT)
Vicky is a qualified Canine Behaviour Practitioner and runs the training and behaviour consultation business ‘LawesPaws’, from her purposely designed consulting facility. Vicky lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, teenage son and, of course, numerous dogs.
Vicky focuses on helping dog owners enjoy contented, well behaved dogs by offering training, behavioural advice and resolving unwanted and problematic behaviour.
The Use of Food Treats in Training
Dogs mainly learn by habit and repetition. That’s all well and good, but if you can’t get your dog to do what you want in the first place, then you can be stumped at the first hurdle. If your dog is motivated by food, then read on.
There are a number of very effective methods to reward good behavior – food being one of them. Not only does a treat get your dog’s attention, but it also helps motivate and guide it into performing the action you are asking for and simultaneously rewards it for that action.
When training you need to clearly communicate to your dog that the action he is performing at the time is what you want him to do. Using food to ‘mark’ the action we require is not only easy for us but it is also easy for him to understand. As you can see, food is a very useful tool when training your dog, but it does need to be used in the correct way.
Timing is critical when teaching new commands, using food as a reward is easy and quick to administer. A dog takes approximately two seconds to link an action with a reward, therefore food treats will come in especially handy when teaching your dog a new exercise or command. If you take too long to administer the reward, the dog may not make the link between the action and the reward for that action.
It is important to think about what type of treat to give; using a piece of food that takes the dog ages to eat, or that’s messy and crumbles onto the floor, can distract him from the task at hand. Treats should ideally be given in very small pieces that are easy and quick to eat and not leave residue all over your hands or the floor.
Another thing to think about when choosing your treats is ‘will my dog do anything for this food’? Using food your dog eats on a regular or even daily basis can be far less motivating than something new and tasty. Tiny pieces of cheese or meat are ideal, however my ultimate favorites are the treats supplied by ‘Natural Instinct’ www.naturalinstinct.com. They are easy to transport and can ben torn into tiny pieces, as well as offering a good variety with zero additives – and most importantly the dogs love them!
A word of warning however; if you rely too heavily on using food in your training; some dogs may start to ignore you if there are no treats on offer. Therefore it is important to fade out the food rewards after new commands have been learned and give on an intermittent basis. Alternating your rewards between food, toys, play and a verbal “good dog” will also help to keep your dog motivated.