A psychologist named B.F. Skinner discovered over 50 years ago that certain animal and human behaviours can actually be created with positive reinforcement, a novel way to shape behaviours by rewarding "good" or desired behaviour with something positive. Positive reinforcement methods for humans typically involves encouragement, compliments and even monetary reinforcements. Positive reinforcement for animals also involves verbal encouragement and praise. However, treats for dogs complement the power of positive reinforcement when training them to obey commands or when correcting bad behaviour.
Are Dogs Treats Just a Way to Bribe Dogs?
No! Treats are a convenient way to help your dog learn what to do when you say certain words or make specific motions. Owners giving dogs treats immediately after they obey commands correctly are engaging in positive reinforcement techniques that makes it easier for dogs to learn commands. Dogs were originally bred to work for their masters by herding livestock, protecting livestock and protecting the family. They love nothing better than to do what their owners want them to do. Of course, treats palatable to dogs work best when training them. The tastier a treat is, the more a dog will want to enjoy eating that treat.
How to Use Treats as Positive Reinforcement When Training Your Dog
Treat rewards should be given to the dog immediately after the dog performs the correct actions. For example, if you tell your dog to sit and he sits for a few seconds but then arises before you give the dog a treat, your pet won't readily associate the treat with sitting on command. Waiting too long to reward dogs with treats may lead to the dog thinking owners want them to stand instead of sit. The use of a hand clicker can help clearly identify correct behaviour and facilitate a dog's understanding between a treat and expected behaviour.
What Kind of Treats Work Best?
Healthy dog treats are a great way train dogs into obeying commands. Neoh & Nobo Mini Biscuit Trio, which can be broken into smaller pieces, The Dog's Butter and pieces of chicken, liver etc. can help coax dogs with more spirited personalities into obeying commands. Let your dog decide which treats he wants you to give him. The ones he gobbles up after sitting, standing or speaking should be the treats you stick with during training sessions. Owners may consider working up their dog's appetite before a training session by taking their dog for a walk, playing fetch or training them at meal time.
Tips for Training Dogs
Instead of starting out by training dogs not do something unacceptable, owners should begin working with their dogs on a dog's familiar and favourite behaviours. Using positive reinforcement with treat rewards to get dogs to fetch balls and return them to their owner is a great way to help dogs understand that training sessions are enjoyable.
In the beginning, prepare a distraction-free environment where you can teach your dog to obey commands. Reserve a small room in your home that isn't noisy or doesn't have large windows revealing the outdoors. After dogs have learned several commands through positive reinforcement, they may be taught in environments where distractions occur.
Always train your dog using consistent actions and rewards. It's best if only one person does most, if not all, of the dog training sessions so the dog doesn't become confused by differently worded commands.
Even if your dog has difficulty learning a new command, always end training sessions positively. Tell your dog "Good boy!" or "Good girl!" and give lots of hugs and pets. Take time to play with your dog afterwards to teach him to look forward to the sight of treats and a hand clicker, if you choose to use one.
Most of all, have fun while training your dog!
Guest Blog By: Evan Dunbar