If you just got a new puppy or are planning on getting one, you may be considering getting them trained. To have a dog that knows how to socialize and in public or simply behave well, training them is surely the way to go.
With puppies, because of their short attention span, you want to keep their training sessions short but strategic. This means giving them immediate, high-value rewards. This is where treats come in.
But did you know that dog treats weren’t always used? Traditional dog trainers didn’t want to rely on treats because they considered it “cheating.” In fact, even until today, treats aren’t an absolute necessity when it comes to training. Most gundogs in the US and UK are trained without food, so why should we typical dog owners resort to treats?
Positive Reinforcement Over Negative Reinforcement
Back then, dog trainers resorted to negative reinforcement to train dogs. No doubt, the dogs soon learned how to behave correctly but this was because of fear. The risk here is that if you instill too much fear in them, they could lash out in the future. You want your dogs to listen to you because they want to.
Some dog trainers also switched from negative reinforcement to positive reinforcement because of ethical reasons. It just doesn’t seem right to punish dogs just because they don’t know any better.
Dogs behave just like humans. Books on leadership and human interaction like Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends & Influence People” support the fact that positive reinforcement is always key to long-lasting change. So why should we think that dogs will respond differently?
Can We Use Other Positive Rewards?
You may be wondering then if there are other forms of positive reinforcement you can use other than treats. How about rewards such as a simple pet, or saying “good boy/girl!”? Well, to simply state it, those rewards just mentioned aren’t pleasurable enough for your dogs. These aren’t enough to make your dog want to do those tricks all the time.
With treats, you can be sure without a doubt that your dog will want to be rewarded. And with puppies who have short attention spans, you’ll want to make sure that they can repeat the same command several times during your quick training session. And the best part? Your puppy will have fun during the entire process!
Not All Treats Are Equal
Although treats are no doubt the go-to for positive reinforcement, puppies will not respond the same to all treats. If you’re noticing that your dog isn’t responding constantly to your command, you may want to consider treats that are more high-value. Don’t rely on your typical dog food as rewards as these aren’t very tempting for them. Consider more special rewards such as cut-up pieces of chicken or hotdogs. You may even want to consider natural dog treats.
The bottom-line is that you want to make your training session for your pup fun and desirable. This is why treats are now much preferred by both professional trainers and home dog owners nowadays.