When you start training your dog, cat, rabbit or any other pet it is important to think about the treats you are using, how you are using them, what you are using and how much you are giving. All these things are really important and will help you get the results that you are aiming for.
How are you using your treats?
Giving your dog treats while training can work in your favour if you know some techniques to include. For example if during training your pet performs exceptionally well you can give them a treat JACKPOT! This works much the same as winning the jackpot at lotto; we keep playing for the hope that we might win that jackpot again. Animals learn with positive reinforcement in the exact same way, they will keep trying in hope of gaining that extra tasty treat. Another way you can use an extra tasty treat is to use a technique called JUMPSTART, this is when you show your pet the treat before asking for a response this way your pet will have some extra motivation. Who doesn’t need that for time to time?
What are you using for your treats?
Quality of the treats you use is really important; imagine if someone said to your child that if they went out and washed the car they would get a plate full of brussel sprouts as a reward. I imagine the majority of kids would turn their noses up at both washing the car and the brussel sprouts! Dogs can be the same; if you use their normal food as a treat it may not provide them enough motivation. It is a much better idea to find something they really like, and even mix it up a bit so they don’t know what they will get. Doing so will keep them interested and motivated, give it a go and let me know how it helped to make a difference!
How much are you giving?
Apart from when using techniques such as the ones mentioned above (Jackpot and Jumpstart), the amount you are giving during training sessions matters! The best treats to use are of the semi-dry variety as these can be easily broken up into smaller pieces, and smaller pieces can be more effective. This is because the act of eating is a reward itself, so eating many smaller pieces is a bigger reward that eating a bigger treat (of the same kind).
In summary, use your treats wisely, choose treats you know your pet will be willing to work for to give them the motivation to complete the response you are asking of them. Keep some extra special treats aside to help provide some extra motivation when you feel your pet needs it. And break your treats up in to small pieces, as just the act of eating is a reward in itself.