Shih Tzu with training treats

Puppy Love: Training with Treats

Training your puppy is essential…though at times frustrating. There are a few things that can help both of you make this time more enjoyable and less stressful. The first one in this series: treats.

Now I know that you think your puppy is extraordinary, and he or she certainly may be! But as a rule, puppies are not deep thinkers. They are not motivated by complex ideas or thoughts of the future. Nope, they’re pretty simple. Food and attention are the core motivators.

While training your dog, treats are the perfect way to reward and encourage good behavior (such as relinquishing a toy on command as part of socialization or even stopping a bad behavior when told to do so.)

Keep these important things in mind as you use treats to train:

  • The tastier the treat, the more value it has to your puppy. This goes for aroma as well. These types of treats are more motivating. The treats should be made for dogs and preferably not “human” foods or table scraps. This is not so different than human motivation. We’d almost all prefer a chunk of chocolate cake to a saltine as a reward!
  • Using small pieces of the treat as you have the puppy repeat good behavior in rapid succession works well. Soft treats can be swallowed more quickly, so try to stick to those varieties.
  • Less than 10% of your puppy’s caloric intake should come from treats.  If you feel you are overdoing it with food but want to continue rewarding your pet you can use affection and interaction for a treat/reward. A good belly rub or game of fetch is also rewarding in the minds of puppies.

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