Here are five tips to using them effectively.
- Small, Easy and Delicious
Use tiny treats your dog considers delicious. Big treats slow down the training process (as the dog chews), shorten the session (as the dog gets full) , and risk weight gain (so many more calories a day). These are three things easily avoided with proper treat selection.
- Command before Cookie
If you always train with a cookie in your hand then you teach your dog that a visible cookie is part of training. Instead, keep your treats out of sight when you issue a command. Treats only appear after your dog responds. (There are exceptions but for the most part this is a good plan.)
- Avoid Luring for Long
Luring, shown here, means to use the treat to help create the behavior. It’s a great way to start a new behavior or trick but move to rewards (having the treat appear after the behavior) as fast as you can. Lure for long and your dog will soon depend on the lure. (Not to fret, that can be fixed.)
- Pretrain a Follow Through
You must have a way to calmly cause what you want when your dog doesn’t respond. This allows you to create success rather than practice failure and is necessary if you want to move from puppy training to having a reliably responsive adult dog. I use gentle pressure and release as taught in My Smart Puppy.
- Offer YOU
It is oh-so-easy to let the treat do the talking but don’t. Bring yourself to every moment of reward. Smile, praise then treat. Engage your dog. Doing that will strengthen the value of your attention and praise. Being silent as your treat teaches your dog that the treat is the only thing of real value. It would be like educating your child exclusively with cash for jobs well done. No smiles or praise, just cash. What would that teach? What would that child become?
Treat training is a fantastic aspect of dog training. Using it well can help your dog learn quickly. I hope this gives you guidelines and, if you are having trouble, ask below. I am happy to help.