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The Science of Food Rewards in Training

Using food rewards to train your dog or puppy is a very effective way to get results quickly.  However, its important to use food rewards properly and effectively.

Treats need to be pea-sized OR SMALLER and easy to get to (pocket, training pouch or nearby table top). They should be soft so your dog can chew quickly without leaving crumbs on the floor – plus soft treats are easier to break into small enough pieces

Distracting environments call for better treats. You can usually get away with something like Cheerios or kibble in the house with no distractions, but for outside leash walking practice, whip out the cubed cheddar or hot dogs.

When in working with distractions, or a particularly challenging situation, feed lots of treats in a continuous fashion – to help your dog be successful.

A mix of treats is ideal so your dog never knows what’s coming. Figure out what your dog really likes!

If you are having trouble with a particular behavior such as housetraining or coming when called – use your dog’s very favorite treats for these rewards and ONLY for rewarding these behaviors.

Once a behavior is learned, start rewarding randomly – start with ‘2-fers’ and gradually vary the intervals in which you reward, slowly decreasing over time but continue to reward occasionally – ‘slot machine effect’

Treat ideas:

– Cubed lunch meat (to dry it out a bit, microwave it 3 times for 30 seconds sandwiched between pieces of paper towel)
– Shredded or string cheese
– Cream cheese, peanut butter, Easy cheese (a lick per behavior – also great for grooming practice and stuffing in Kong when your dog will be alone for awhile)
– Cereal such as cheerios
– Kibble (dry food) – try placing some in a paper bag with some bacon to ‘stinkify it’
– Freeze dried liver treats
– Beef Jerky
– Apple pieces
– Cooked green beans, carrots, or peas
– Hot dogs, Liverwurst
– Imitation crab (try peeling layers apart and freezing them in a colander to dry them out)
– Meat baby food
– Hard boiled egg white pieces
– Commercial dog treats (be sure to check ingredients to avoid preservatives, artificial colors and by-products)

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