Why use treats when training?
You do not by any means have to use treats when training your puppy. Some people prefer to just use the voice, others use the YES word or perhaps a clicker.
However, most dogs are highly motivated by food and it can be a fantastic easy way to encourage the right behaviour and to speed up the process of understanding..
Some people think it will cause the puppy to ONLY respond when you have treats on you and what happens when you are out and suddenly find yourself without treats? What we actually use treats for is to help the puppy positively associate new experiences and as a positive marker when they have done the right thing, these can then be phased out and given more intermittently later on.
Why Treats can help with Socialisation.
A well socialised puppy is a puppy who has been out and about and exposed to as many new experiences before the age of 12/13 weeks as possible. Before this age, a puppy’s brain is like a sponge soaking up new experiences good and bad.
It is vital that positive associations are made during this time because these experiences will remain with your dog for life. If your puppy had a frightening experience with a big black dog at this age, if this wasn’t rectifies, there is a strong change that puppy would always have a fear of big black dogs even into its adult years. Treats are a fantastic way to mark new experiences and show the puppy that they are positive and nothing to be frightened of. Let’s take a look at the different types of treats that can be used and then look at how we train with them.
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What Treats can my Puppy have?
Treats work best in training if you give variety to keep your puppy interested. They can be a selection of your puppy’s daily food allowance, training treats you buy from the shop, chopped up bits of chicken ,cheese, hotdogs, sausages, ham, liver and homemade treats such as tuna or liver cake and biscuits.
The KONG is also an amazing toy that you can stuff with yummy food and treats to help keep your puppy entertained for longer. More on the kong in a minute.
There are different times to use treats and this affects which type of treat you may choose. For example a stuffed kong may be used when you want your puppy to settle in the crate for a while.
A selection of your chopped up treats with their daily kibble and bought training treats will be used for every day training and encouraging of good behaviour in the home.
Then a selection of super high value treats such as liver, tuna cake, chicken and cheese will be used for really important commands and training such as recall and emergency stop where you want your puppy to really keen to make good choices.
For some fabulous easy to make recipes for homemade puppy treats such as tuna cake, liver cake and biscuits check out our Easy to Make Puppy Training Treats Post.
before Getting Started.
There are a few key things to remember before we get started:
1. Always have a tasty selection of high value treats with you. High value includes things like cheese, chicken, hotdogs, ham, liver cake all chopped up small.
2. Throw in a some of your puppy’s daily kibble and other purchased treats too. This gives a variety to the treat bag and keep your puppy interested.
3. Invest in a good quality treat pouch. You are going to be wearing this a lot in the early days so choose something comfy and easy to clean that you can have with you at all times. Below are a few of our recommendations to suit different styles preferences and budgets.
Now lets get started.
How to Use Treats in Training.
Let’s take a look at a few different situations when you can use treats in your puppies training.
Treats can be used to reward calm behaviour in response to new experiences.
Before the age of 12 weeks it is important to expose your puppy to as much as possible and for every new sight, sound, person, animal they are introduced to when they remain calm give a treat. Never reward scared or startled behaviour as this only reinforces it is OK to be scared.
For lots more information and an informative video on socialising your puppy and especially through the challenges and restrictions faced during lockdown check out our Socialising Your Puppy during Lockdown post.
For Teaching New Commands.
Treats are great for teaching new commands. Before using any verbal cues, use the treat in you hand to guide the puppy into the action you require. For example a sit hold the treat infront of the puppy’s nose and guide your hand upwards and back slightly and release the treat the instance your puppy’s bottom touches the floor. Only after at least 4 successful repetitions you can begin to add the voice cue sit.
With any command the vital part is only to release the treat when the puppy is doing the action you require.
For Encouraging Good Manners in the Home.
Teaching your puppy important commands like drop it and leave are really important early on as they will help to reinforce good behaviours in the home. You can reward your puppy for behaving calmly and treat them randomly when they have four feet on the floor. It is also great to proactively encourage your puppy to settle. Anytime they are laying down quietly instead of just ignoring them, throw them a couple of treats and say the word settle. If you do this lots eventually your puppy will understand that the cue settle means to go and lie down quietly.
You can learn lots more about encouraging polite manners and calm behaviours in the home on our Welcome Home Puppy Course which is available to everyone at 50% discount during lockdown so ENROLL TODAY!
To Keep your puppy entertained when unsupervised.
It is so important that your puppy is left in a safe place such as a crate when they are unsupervised. This not only keeps your puppy safe from household hazards but also prevents your house and possessions from being destroyed and allows him to rest sufficiently. Treats can be used to positively associate their safe place as a happy place to be and can be given to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated too.
Our Favourite Treat Pouches.
This is Coachie’s standard treat pouch that clips onto a belt. It is easy to clean and get into and a good all round treat pouch.
This is a very versatile pouch that comes in a variety of colours coming with an adjustable waist band and reflective shoulder strap. Easy to open and close with space for poo bags too.
This is a cheap, compact and waterproof little pouch with a poo bag dispenser built in available in 2 camouflage colours.
Still very reasonably priced. Check out this multipurpose treat pouch perfect for getting out and about hands free with your four legged friend. Contains handy phone and key pockets collapsible water bowl and is fully waterproof.
Importance of the Kong
The kong is just the most amazing toy that every puppy should have. In fact we recommend having 2 or 3 of them so you can always have them stuffed ready in the fridge or freezer to give your puppy as and when you need them.
Why is the Kong so Valuable?
It can be stuffed with a variety of yummy treats such as cheese spread, pate, daily kibble, chicken and all the other chopped up food we have already mentioned. It can be put in the freezer which will take longer for the puppy to lick out the contents and it helps keep your puppy entertained for longer periods of time.
The combination of the crate and the kong are just invaluable in your puppy’s training and you can learn more about this on our FREE Settle Your Puppy in 24 Hours Lesson which you can sign up for today.
When to use the kong.
- Any time your puppy is unsupervised put them in the crate with a kong stuffed full of yummy treats.
- On a morning when you are busy getting ready.
- Whilst you are busy cooking tea or eating tea.
- If you are visiting someone else and do not have a crate with you, a kong can help them to settle when you need them to.
- When watching TV on a night and you want to teach your puppy to settle.
- Whilst you are occupied putting the children to bed.
Note: Always make sure you have positively associated the crate to your puppy before leaving them in there for extended periods of time. To find out how to do this quickly and easily so your puppy will LOVE the crate click here.
Which kong should I choose?
There are a variety of kongs available. Here are a selection of our favourite tried and tested ones that your puppy will love. We recommend having 2/3 + so you can have them prepared and ready in the freezer for the day ahead so you could have a selection for variety for your puppy.
These are the original Kong’s in the shape of a cone that will provide hours of entertainment for your puppy.
This bone shaped kong toy is fantastic, the ends can be stuffed with cheese spread, pate, peanut butter and will squeeze out as your puppy chews.
Stuff these little grooves with cheese spread, pate of Kong’s quick and easy kong filler and freeze for longer entertainment.
This amazing kong filler is a great one to have in the cupboard if you are in a hurry and need to fill your kong’s quickly and easily.
Final things to remember.
- Make sure you reduce your puppy’s daily food intake to allow for the added treats they are eating.
- Always use a variety of yummy treats so the selection doesn’t become boring.
- Save your really high value treats for really important commands such as recall.
- Check out our Easy to Make Homemade Treats Recipes.
- Remember puppies love food and it is a great way to reward them for the right behaviours.
- Find out more about all aspects of our positive training in the home on our Welcome Home Puppy Course.