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Treat Me Right!

“Will I have to keep treating my dog for the rest of their life?”
“Can I feed too many treats?”
“But then he’s only doing it for the treats, and not for me.”

All common comments and questions I get when training, and as many of you know, I love it when owners start thinking and questioning the things I ask them to do – it’s all part of understanding what you’re doing with your dog!

First off, let’s dispel the name and attachment of “treat” to when we feed our dog for performing a behaviour. A “treat” is something I have every Friday (It’s Curry night, the best night of the week!). It could be something you indulge in monthly or even annually – the point is it’s not that regular (Unless you’re a glutton like me and enjoy a curry far too much!).

Anyone who has trained with me, or has done any food-based training will know you’re going to be handing over a fairly large amount of food in that session. Now if you’re training daily or every few days – “suddenly we’re asking ourselves, this isn’t a treat anymore, is it?”

I want you to start treating the food you feed your dogs as your way of saying “Thanks!”.

“Thanks for coming away from that dog.”
“Thanks for sitting down in a place where sitting is the last thing a dog would ordinarily do.”
“Thanks for doing a wee in the garden and not on the sofa!”
“Thanks for not trying to bear hug Grandma when she visits.”

The reality is, if we don’t say thanks and show our gratitude it’s highly possible that individual, be it dog or human is going to stop working for you. When it’s a new behaviour, the learning is a little harder, the choices less obvious we need to say thanks more to REALLY show our gratitude and get that learning into our dogs noggins. Over time, we can start to reduce the amount of thanks we give, until we might just say thanks at the end of a small walk along the road.

Food is essential to your dogs survival – especially Labradors!
If you can thank your dog with the tasty, high quality foods for the things you like you’ll have a dog that loves to be thanked!

So let’s go back to those questions…
“Will I have to keep treating my dog for the rest of their life?”
-If you stop saying thanks, expect there to be some reduction in the motivation to perform that task. We can reduce the amount, but is it really that inconvenient to have a handful of tasty food in a jacket pocket. Remember, you’re a Doggy Person now, people expect you be covered in hair and smell a little meaty.

“Can I feed too many treats?”
– Of course you can, but it’s about being smart. Don’t say thanks with McDonalds (I wont name any brands, but if it’s cheap and is in a certain well known Pet Shop it’s probably not going to be that healthy!). Similarly take a portion of food out of your dogs daily allowance to make up for all the thanks you might be giving. Use high quality, high percentage meat food for saying Thanks!

“But then he’s only doing it for the treats, and not for me.”
He or She is doing not just for the treats, it’s for the experience you create with food. It’s the anticipation before throwing the food, or delivering it with such enthusiasm your dogs bum can’t sit still. That inner reward of endorphins your dog gets comes through you giving that small lump of meat – don’t do it and yourself an injustice – this is how you give your gratitude to your dog for choosing YOU.

So tell me, with what do you THANK your dog?

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