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Using treats to train a dog is a widely accepted practice in positive method training circles. It’s important to remember that treats are not the only reward you should use while training. Real world rewards are just as effective, and sometimes more so than a quick liver treat. But when you are trying to teach something new to a dog who is food motivated, a bag full of bite-size tidbits can be the quickest way to make him understand what you want.
Variety is the Spice of Life!
Let’s imagine for a moment you are a person who is wild- really crazy nuts- about gum. If you put a quarter in a gumball machine and a blueberry gumball popped out, you’d be pretty psyched, right? An hour later you put in another quarter. Out comes that blueberry goodness. And then, another quarter, another blueberry gumball. Well, okay, you think. Blueberry is cool. But you might find yourself looking through the glass at all those other colors. Wouldn’t it be nice to try, say, strawberry? Or Watermelon? When you return later you hesitate with your quarter before thinking “Eh- blueberry? Not so much.” You pocket your money and head on your way.
Now imagine your treat bag is the gumball machine. Fill it with only liver treats and you may get a great response from Fido at first. (Liver? Yum! Just tell me what to do!) But if all Fido ever gets is the same liver treat over and over, no matter how hard he tries to please, eventually he is going to start weighing things out in his mind. (Hmm… Is a liver treat really worth more than running after that squirrel? I mean, I’ve had the liver… over and over…)
Seriously, we need to mix it up, people! Fill the treat bag with a wide variety of tidbits! In my bag at this very moment you will find freeze dried beef liver, freeze dried duck liver (Reese Beast assures me there is a big difference in flavor!), grain free rabbit jerky, dehydrated raw food nuggets, among other things. My dogs never know what they are gonna get. It keeps them coming back for more. And the more you try stuff, the more you will learn what makes your dog (literally) sit up and beg for more. When he was alive, my dog Bean was very food motivated. But after an hour of agility class he would start to droop a little. That was when I pulled out the salmon jerky. That first whiff of salmon was like a double espresso for him. He would work the last fifteen minute of class, no problem! (“Oh, salmon? Well, why didn’t you SAY so?”)
Lastly, training treats should be on the soft side and able to be broken up into small pieces.
Bearing that in mind, here are five different training treats that should find their way into your treat bag! Preferably all at once. :o)
- Steward Pro Treat 100% Beef Liver Treats for Dogs: These are literally the original freeze dried training treat. (It says so on the tub!) This is the stuff you see dog show handlers carrying in their hands (and mouths-Yuck!) while in the ring with their dogs. My dogs love it, but it can be a bit hard to break for small dogs. Excellent for big dogs, tho.
- PureBites: Another freeze dried treat. We are currently serving the duck liver and loving it, but there are other flavors to try, like chicken, and even beef and cheese! These are soft and easy to break, four paws up.
- Wellness Core freeze dried treats: Are you beginning to sense a theme here? I lean heavily towards 1 ingredient treats when I can help it, because the more processed treats have things in them I don’t want to feed to my dogs. We are serving salmon at the moment, but there is a variety of flavors to choose from.
- Merrick Power Bites: These are small, soft jerky tidbits, and they are not 1 ingredient, so I use them sparingly. But in moderation they work well and the dogs really like them.
- Instinct Freeze Dried Raw Boost Mixers: Try to say that five times fast! These are actually my current favorite, that I happened upon by accident at the pet store. They are kibble sized nuggets of dehydrated raw food, easy to break apart, and very nutritious!
So there you have it. Let’s get out there and mix things up! On the field and in the bag. I would love to hear what you use that your dog loves! Please comment below, and if you are interested in receiving updates, the subscribe box is in the menu at the top right. Cheers!
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