THE INTELLIGENT WAY TO USE FOOD WHILE TRAINING YOUR DOG
Training a dog is a slow and drawn out process. While they may be mindful creatures, they are certainly not people with four legs, and while they have their own desires to do things they enjoy, getting them to do things you want them to do can be a struggle. Food is essential in the process. If your boss told you to do something for no reward or pay, you wouldn’t be inclined to do it. Your dog is no different. Without an obvious reward, your dog will have no inclination to do as you ask.
But your use of food as treats needs to be intelligent. You are using food as a training method, not a bribe. If you are not careful, you could end up bribing your dog, in which case it will only do what you ask when you are dangling a treat right under his nose.
STICK TO THE STEPS
To use food effectively as a training tool, each time you give your dog a command, do it in the same way.
Cue the behaviour – say the word of phrase which signals the action you want the dog to do, like “sit” or “lie down”.
Mark the behaviour – this indicates that the dog has done the correct action. Your mark can be something like “good boy!” or “well done”.
Get the treat and reward – the treat always needs to be presented after the action is complete.
If you show the dog the treat before the action, you are not training, but bribing the dog. If you are not careful you will end up in a situation where your dog will only perform the command when it can see the food. This will not only lead to a fat dog, but you will spend a fortune in dog biscuits.
By using food in this way, you are using it as a training tool and eventually, the dog will complete the commands without the immediate reward of food simply because they know the correct response the behaviour cue.
GET MORE FOR YOUR MONEY
Once your dog knows the command and the sequence of events, start to introduce sequences so you get the dog to work harder for its reward. Introduce position changes and get the dog to transition from “sit” to “lie down” to “stay” before you give it the reward.
When it is comfortable and confident with command sequences, you can make the rewards more infrequent. You don’t need to reward your dog with food every time. Only reward your dog in exceptional circumstances, like if it assumed the required position promptly, or it was able to stay for a particularly prolonged period of time. Show your dog that the basics are not enough for a reward now, but that he or she must do everything perfectly.
DON’T LET YOUR DOG GET FAT WHILE TRAINING
While you are rewarding good behaviour with treats, deduct whatever you are giving it in rewards from its next meal. Overfeeding a dog while it is training is common. You can also make your rewards really small. In reality, the dog will respond the same way for a whole biscuit, half a biscuit or even a quarter of a biscuit, so there is no need to give them a large reward for every successful command.
If you use food as a reward in this way, bit by bit your dog will become effectively trained and you won’t fall into the trap of using food as a bribe. Eventually, you won’t even need to have food on you and your dog will do exactly as you say.
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