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Training With Dog Treats: An Owner’s Guide

By Angie L Robinson

Nothing draws a canine’s attention more effectively than food. This is the reason most professional trainers strongly recommend using food treats while training your pooch. It is an effective tool for modifying undesirable behaviors and encouraging those that are preferred.

In this article, we’ll take you through the process of training your dog and getting the results you expect, using food treats as the motivator. We’ll begin by explaining why it’s important to start as early as possible, preferably when your pooch is still a pup. You’ll also learn how to use food as a lever rather than a crutch on which you’re forced to depend.

The First Day

Dogs learn quickly by interacting with their owners. Your pooch will begin learning about behaviors you find acceptable and unacceptable from the moment you bring him home. If you play with him with little regard for boundaries, he will learn to be obnoxious. If you allow him to jump on you, he will learn to jump. If his barking reliably gets your attention, he will learn to bark for your attention.

It is important that you begin training your canine beginning with his first day in your home. This is the only way to teach him how to behave, and prevent him from developing bad habits.

Schedule time for play, but keep the sessions structured. If your dog jumps on you or starts to bark, ignore him until he becomes quiet. Turn your back on him, if necessary. When he calms himself, provide a food treat to reinforce the desired behavior.

A Smart Approach To Using Food

You can motivate your canine to do just about anything if he believes he will receive something tasty in return for complying with your commands. The problem is, giving him a treat each time he responds properly creates the expectation of a food reward. At that point, you’re treading a fine line between bribing him for his compliance and encouraging him to behave in a way that pleases you. A smarter approach can prevent this from happening.

When you first begin training your dog, praise him and give him a food treat each time he responds correctly. This reinforces the behavior you expect from him. After he learns the correct response, there’s no need to provide food each time he complies. Instead, praise him and give him a treat following every third successful response. Then, do so after every fifth response. By gradually weaning him, he will consider the treats an occasional reward rather than a bribe.

Other Rewards To Use

Dogs enjoy doing a job well. They derive satisfaction from it. They also enjoy receiving their owner’s praise and attention. This is important in the context of rewarding your canine when he performs a task according to your wishes.

A lot of owners become trapped in the habit of always using food to prompt an acceptable response from their canines. This can be effective, but it does little to encourage respect from your dog.

Use rewards to which your canine is naturally drawn. For example, suppose you want him to sit still and quiet. After he complies, praise him and pet him rather than merely giving him a food item. Your attention is just as compelling a reward to him as food (usually). Moreover, it strengthens his respect for your authority. It cements in his mind your position as his pack leader.

Final Thoughts Regarding Training

When using rewards, make sure you provide them immediately after your dog responds correctly to your commands. In order for the reward to reinforce a desired behavior, your canine must be able to easily connect it to his response. If you praise him several minutes after he responds, he will not know you are rewarding his compliance. He will consider the treat to be exactly that: a sporadic treat. And that does little to encourage specific behaviors.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Robinson, Angie L. "Training With Dog Treats: An Owner’s Guide." Training With Dog Treats: An Owner’s Guide. 21 Jun. 2010. 23 Oct 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Robinson, A (2010, June 21). Training With Dog Treats: An Owner’s Guide. Retrieved October 23, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Robinson, Angie L. "Training With Dog Treats: An Owner’s Guide"

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