I was inspired to write this post by Ian Dunbar’s lectures where the topic of using treats in the process of training a dog came up. I have also often wondered about the problems that come with using food when leading a dog out of many problems. When the dog is unable to play with his owner, treats become the only reward (reinforcement) you can use.
At the very beginning of this post, I would like to encourage you to enroll in Ian Dunbar’s online school. As he is a university lecturer and dog researcher, this will give you access to a wealth of knowledge given in a friendly and very interesting way. The link to the school can be found here.
Dog treats – what to watch out for
When training a dog, especially one with behavioral problems, many repetitions of the same exercise are used. Adult, neglected dogs require up to 500 repetitions to present and consolidate a behavior. Even if a dog’s treat is only two grams, it will give us 1kg of treats used in just one session. This is the underlying problem that determines the other risks to dog health, which are described below.
Quality of treats
When choosing treats, you must be guided by two qualities. Whether your dog will find them really great and what kind of composition they have. Finding the perfect treat is difficult, because when we frequently change them, it teaches your dog that as soon as he starts to fuss, he will get something new. Which is actually natural, because no animal likes monotony in its diet. Dogs are mainly guided by the sense of smell when evaluating food, so it is important that the treat has an intense smell. In addition, dogs especially like food containing fat and salt (although salt should not be in the dog’s diet in excess).
Good quality treats for me are mainly naturally dried pieces of meat and offal. A large selection of such tastes, at a good price can be found here>>>.
Can dry food be a reward?
Since giving treats is not indifferent to the dog, maybe it is worth turning some of the rewards into dry food, which the dog eats every day? But will it be a reward for the dog or just a payment for following a command or correct behavior? You can “tweak” your dog’s munchies in several ways and make them work as a reward. However, they are no substitute for some really special treats. Therefore, divide your dog’s rewards into two categories(two sachets will be very helpful). One category is super rewards for doing something very difficult dried lungs, pieces of dried meat etc. And the second category where the dog crisps will go but in the pro version. These will also be a reward for the dog, but the dog will quickly understand that when he does something faster or more “stylish” he will get a treat from this better sachet.
What can be done to make dog’s daily food a reward?
Prepare yourself some portions of dog food, weigh them and include them in your dog’s diet. This will ensure that your dog’s weight is correct.
Turn up the scent
Put the food in separate bags. In each of them you can put something that has an intense smell, preferably something that is also fatty. It can be a piece of smoked fish, dried meat, spoiled (from a human perspective) meat, mutton, cheese, roast chicken, etc. Here you are limited only by your imagination and watching your dog. Set aside portions prepared in this way for a few days to let the flavor come through. Remember that your dog has a much better sense of smell than you do, and you may think something didn’t work as expected but your dog will notice the differences.
Turn up the flavor
Here, as with smell, put measured portions of your dog’s food into separate containers or pouches. You can add a little fat to each one. Whether regular oil or lard (goose oil is great) or salmon oil and mix well. Remember to take into account the increased caloric content of such food.
Turn up the meaning
This is perhaps the least obvious and thus least used method of making an ordinary dog munch into something special. In theory, it’s called a secondary reinforcement. It sounds complicated and what it boils down to is that giving a dog a treat is a foreshadowing of something the dog really likes. Therefore, think about and write down what your dog likes. It could be fetch, jumping into water, playing with a ball, petting, getting on the couch, playing with another dog, etc.
Once you have a list and a bag of dog food start following a pattern:
Command (e.g. “Sit”) -> treat -> something the dog likes – repeat it often in short series with different favorite dog activities. You can also take one treat in your hand and give it to the dog a while before giving the whole bowl of food. It will be meaningful to the dog.
How does it benefit? A treat given before your dog’s favorite activity will begin to act as praise. It is a announcement of something pleasant which will cause endorphins to begin to be secreted in the dog’s brain. After a few dozen repetitions, classical conditioning will begin and substances in the dog’s head will start to secrete automatically at the mere sight of a treat. A simple and extremely effective action!
It is also worthwhile, after praising the dog, slipping the treat under the dog’s nose, then count slowly to three and after that give him the treat. You can also give your dog treats not regularly to introduce a kind of lottery for your canine friend. When the dog doesn’t “win” the reward each time, he will appreciate it more.
Below is one of Prof. Dunbar’s resources more can be found here.