- First and foremost, treats need to be motivating. You're wasting your time and money on those that your dog is not extremely interested in. The object is to get his attention with their aroma, to encourage the desired behavior again and again.
- Some dogs are less food-motivated than others and need extra work to find just the right treats. Seek out soft treats with a strong smell, keeping them small to consider his waistline, if you'll be using them frequently. Many trainers favor sliced hotdogs (I choose organic), grated cheese (ditto), or Natural Balance tubed dog food. I can support this one too, as it is preservative free, looking out for your dog's health. When preparing these items, you'll need to open, slice, chop or grate, and then freeze in snack-sized zippie bags for use in training. This will keep it all fresh, and allow you to thaw out just what you need for one session.
- If your dog is a chow hound that will eat anything, you may be able to get away with something less pricey like his kibble or even a low-fat kibble or treat. The downside of these dry treats for training is that they crumble. This means pieces fall on the floor and the dog loses focus on you, surfing for crumbs on the ground. This can be a particular problem for smaller dogs, whereas big ones may hardly chew a kibble-sized dry treat, and not drop a morsel. Choose wisely for your dog's size and eating style.
- A natural treat that is loved by many dogs, and won't crumble, is pulled chicken (turkey,too!). Whenever you roast a hen, clean off the bones till they shine, saving every small morsel for little bags of chicken to use in training. These will smell great and do the job at getting his attention on you.
- When training new behaviors that are particularly scary, difficult, or need extra motivation (all you agility folks know that teaching a dog to walk the teeter is definitely in this category), choose the best smelling stuff in your arsenal and come prepared with lots of it. You may even find that skipping a meal before class will help get him focused on the treats, and not the scary, new skill he is learning. That's the idea...now you've got it.
Speaking of treats, All Things Dog Blog is putting together a cookbook of readers' dog recipes. Do you like to prepare treats especially for your dog? Your recipe, dog's photo and your name, if you wish, can appear on a page here on the website. There's even prizes for recipes, cover photos and title ideas. Whatever your particular talent, you can get in on this action. Send your submissions to LetsAdoptaDogPark@gmail.com. Xena, Tanner and Oliver are looking forward to taste testing your yummies. Happy tails!
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