You give them what?? We use treats when we are teaching dogs what a word or hand signal means, to reinforce good behavior and to help shy dogs open up. Here we discuss the treats we use and why and how to successfully get your pup to work for you and not for food.

Dogs are all about associations – it doesn’t take long for them to know that when you pick up a leash it’s time for a walk. We use similar associations with treats. By saying a word and giving a treat over and over and over again, the word makes them be in treat stage. So as you SLOWLY – AND RANDOMLY lower and change up the treats your dog stays just as excited due to the association.

Dogs Rock!When I first work with a dog, I’m very generous with treats. Every YES gets a treat and I’m big with repetition. Often dogs have come from a less-than-generous atmosphere and I need to reset them to one where they don’t have to try so hard to score a treat. Every time they do something right, they get a YES and a treat (mark and treat it’s called).

Your marker word doesn’t need to be YES but it should be something short and said with enthusiasm. I will often start with larger treats then work to smaller ones before beginning to vary them. So every good action gets a marker word and treat initially and until the dog trusts and gets what’s happening.

Once the dog understands whats expected and is responding consistently I begin to vary up the treats. First every sit gets a treat then I’ll ask for 2 sits and give 2 treats. Then 2 sits gets 1 treat then I might ask for 3 sits before giving a treat or 2. For the first 3 months of training you should still be giving random treats for anything you ask for. After that use treats to reinforce sits in new locations or with chaos around, another dog or a kid, etc.

Some of our favorite training treats are:

  • Meatballs
  • Hotdogs
  • Cheese
  • Chicken
  • Liverwurst (put in a sm squeeze bottle for ease of dispensing)
  • Peanut butter
  • Kibble