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The healthy use of treats to train your dog

We all want to help our dogs to be the best furry friend they can be, which usually means undergoing a period of training at some stage during their life. Training with treats is one of the most commonly accepted methods of teaching a dog, whether it be a puppy or an older dog. The positive reinforcement created by using treats allows a dog to associate the desired behaviour with a reward, creating a Pavlovian response that manifests in a learned behaviour. Treats also help to develop a great bond between dog and trainer, especially when the trainer is also the owner!

However, what often gets overlooked is the importance of using treats healthily in the training process. Good nutrition is crucial to general canine wellbeing and the longevity of a dog’s life. Check out the tips below to see what you can do to ensure your dog is getting the best training with treats possible:

Tips and advice for healthy treat training

1. Use a proportional reward. A dog learning a new behaviour for the first time deserves a bigger reward than a dog sitting on command for the 20th time. Smaller treats are perfect, as they can be more easily tailored for this purpose. At Bounce & Bella, our treats are practically sized to help prevent over-feeding.

2. Make them earn it. Rewarding a dog when their behaviour isn’t quite right is not only unhelpful for training, it creates an expectation for treats that can lead to overeating. Whilst the pups may be quite happy with this arrangement in the short-term, long-term it is not good for the dog or the trainer.

3. Quality is key. Many dog treats do not contain a good nutritional balance. This is acceptable occasionally, but when treats are given out on the scale that training can require, the consequences can get serious when the ingredients aren’t right. Bounce & Bella treats are made with a blend of 80% freshly produced poultry and 20% potatoes and chicken gravy – that’s it!

4. Use grain-free treats. Grain-free treats aren’t unnecessarily bulked up – your dog is only getting the best nutrients without any of the unhealthy clutter! Dogs are unable to fully digest grain, leading to a number of undesirable health effects including weight gain. Grain-free treats keep your dog fuller for longer, preventing over-eating. Other benefits can include a healthier coat, reduced stool size and less shedding – switching to grain-free is a no-brainer!

4. Try to be consistent with the type of treats you give your dog. Sometimes we can’t resist those big eyes, and a scrap of leftovers or a spare ingredient makes its way to our furry friends. Whilst this is fine on occasion, it’s important to remember not to allow this to become a habit during the training process. Keep the nutrition balanced and both dog and trainer will win.

5. Had a busy day? Have a lighter dinner! If your dog has been working hard all day learning new behaviours, chances are they’ve had a lot of well-deserved treats in the process. Balance that out by reducing the portion size of their next meal, to ensure a healthy weight is maintained.

6. Keep hydrated. As with humans, keeping the fluids coming is really important for dogs. Water not only hydrates a dog but aids with the digestion of all those treats. The water should always be clean, so make sure it is changed daily and give that bowl a rinse out every now and then.

7. Finally, don’t force it. If your dog has clearly had enough and is just looking for more treats rather than working on the training, it’s time to call it a day. Being stubborn can be normal for a dog in training, but it’s something a trainer themselves should avoid! If a dog is no longer motivated, they risk losing the positive reinforcement of training with treats.

Given the sheer volume of treats often required throughout the process, it’s clearly vital that a dog’s health is taken into account when choosing the type of treats to use. Thankfully, Bounce & Bella’s, small grain-free treats are perfect for dogs aged 16 weeks and over, once their adult teeth have developed.

Photo: by Emery_Way licensed under Creative commons 4
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Top four positive reinforcement dog training tips

Four of the best positive reinforcement dog training tips

Positive reinforcement is one of the most rewarding dog training procedures. It involves praising and rewarding the dog every time it follows commands. Dogs generally yearn for praise and attention from their masters, and whenever they are rewarded for doing something, they are more than likely to repeat the same. Here are four invaluable positive reinforcement tips that will improve the behaviour and morale of your dog.

1. Different training procedures for different dog breeds

Different dog species react best to different training methods, foods and even surroundings. Although the issue of food and environment might be widely known, the phenomenon of training procedures is relatively new and thus unknown to many. A keen trainer might notice that even female breeds react differently to various commands compared to their male counterparts. Therefore, when carrying out training sessions, it is imperative to keenly observe reactions from specific animals to understand the commands that work best for them.

2. Praise and reward good behaviour, and don’t be shy to admonish bad habits

Unlike humans, dogs are animals that live in the moment. During training sessions, if the dog successfully follows through a command, however simple it might be, the trainer should be prompt in encouraging the dog. It can be as simple as patting the animal in good humour or giving it treats. It is very important to make sure that the dog understands why they are being praised, as this encourages them to keep repeating the action, which will ultimately become a habit.

On the other hand, if the animal disobeys a command, you should express the disappointment swiftly and immediately. The dog should not be allowed to ignore even the simplest of commands, as this will ultimately develop into a bad routine.

Take the example of training a housedog. The dog ought to know precisely where to poop. When it relieves itself there, make sure to praise it. This will encourage it to keep the command in mind and repeat the same even when you are absent. However, should it relieve itself at an inappropriate place, do not save your resentment for later. Instead, make sure the dog understands your frustrations immediately in order to make him/her more observant in future.

3. Be patient

It is true that dogs are our best friends, but they are not nearly as intelligent as we are. You might expect a puppy to learn as fast as a little child might, but that is not the case. Even when they learn a command, they are prone to forgetting it until they are well conversant with it. Therefore, when training a dog, patience is a virtue that needs to be observed keenly.

For instance, if you issue a command and the dog is reluctant to follow, do not ignore it or move to another exercise. Make sure you stick there until the instruction is adhered to before moving along. It is one way to ensure that the dog respects your instructions at all times and without failure. Also, do not issue multiple commands in close succession as this might confuse the animal on what to follow. The best training should be gradual, moving along only when the trainer is satisfied with the progress and understanding of the dog.

4. Know when to give treats

The best motivational booster for dogs is training with treats. These may include toys, food, petting, and ruffling of their fur coats among others. However, it’s important to note that these treats should be timely and in reward of something good the dog does. The best way to go about it is to make sure the dog understands what the award is for, and this will significantly improve their concentration and morale. When training is over and you are satisfied with the dog’s progress, you can reward him/her with food, their favourite toy, or other niceties. Bounce and Bella have some of the best training treats available, they’re grain free and junk free so you be generous without worrying about your dog’s health – you can find out more here: grain free training treats.

In conclusion, it is essential to maintain specific commands for specific actions. If the dog easily identifies a particular code of communication, do not alter it because it will make it difficult for the dog to comprehend the instruction. The trainer ought to be consistent with the commands and keen on the little things that work for the dog.

Photo: Well done! by mripp licensed under Creative commons 2