Using Treats in Training

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

A dog learns from the consequences of its actions, does this get me what i like or not, regardless of our input something will still be learned, is this worth my time yes or no? This learning will occur regardless of our involvement!

I often have people say things like: “but he’s paying the food attention and not me” “I can’t get him todo anything unless i have food in my hand” “he’s just not interested in food at all” “I’ve been told its just bribery“ “its it teasing?” And these are all very valid points and questions so i will try to cover these below.

Left to their own devices, dogs can learn a great deal of things that would not allow them to live harmoniously in human society

121 dog training put a strong emphasis on being involved in what your puppy learns so that you end up with the dog you dreamed of living with!

Of course its not all about the treats, Many factors can affect the dog’s ability to learn, including the environment, the stress level of the puppy, the currency (reward/treat) and the dogs relationship with the person who is teaching it. So first things first lets make sure none of these other issues are getting in the way

  • training in a place of little distraction. (Check)

  • dog is not afraid or reacting or likely to be. (Check)

  • we have a good trusting bond with our dogs. (Check)

I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to practice all training away from distraction first, build on the level of distraction from nothing to the biggest squirrel in the park with time and repetition, you wouldn’t take an opera to opening night without rehearsals.

Now get your treats at the ready and what currency you use is very important for the success of your training. In the eyes of your dog, not all food or praise is rated equally. From his perspective, kibble or dry food & biscuits will be rated lower, whereas something like chicken, dried liver or liver cake, or a piece of cheese rates very high.

Food/reward in ££

££££££ Liver cake / Chase A Ball

££££ Cheese / Tug Of War

£££ Chicken / Play Chase

££ Soft Smelly Dog Treats

£ Dried Dog Treats / Pat on the Head

Free - Dog Food / Good Boy

(This may be subject to your dogs personal preference)

So you can see, why should your dog work and feel enthused todo anything slightly taxing for a measly bit of food he can have later in the day anyway. Many of the behaviors we want our dogs to do are not top of their priority list, this is why the treats are extreamly important, we are putting what we want them todo at the top of their list or priorities. Teaching them particular behaviors such as walking without pulling on the lead, calling them away from a fabulous wrestling match with their pals, or requesting that they don’t sniff a dead pigeon may prove to be challenging for anyone who does not work to install this first crucial step in training, GIVING REWARDS.

That’s what the food is all about: it is the motivator, a currency they understand and want to have, the drive for the food is what we use to our advantage in training, It is payment for a job well done. So lets imagine the squirel running up the tree and around in the leaves….. to watch the squirrel and chase the squirrel will be a ££££££££ style reward so the dog learns chasing squirrels are soooooooo much fun and thus the likelyhood of the dog doing it again when he is faced with the same situation is very high. He has learnt chasing squirrels in rewarding. To then combat this extreamly rewarding behaviour we must bring out the big guns and make returning to us more rewarding then the squirrel so the dog learns we have the higher reward which will always win in the mind of the dog. Without upping the anti and offering a worthwhile currency and practicing you cannot expect to beat the squirrel.

Let me put this another way, if you where to offer your dog 2 hands, in one is their daily kibble and in the other is liver cake… which one will they likely go for first? Liver Cake of course (unless they are a Lab then they will likely have both before you can blink hehehe) ok now imagine swapping that liver cake for a cat and with your kibble in the other hand which one are they going to go for now? The Cat obviously! But now imagine swapping that Kibble up for some Liver cake and make it a tray full with your loving attention and praise while the cat is sat still, which one is your dog likely to go for now? Quite possibly the liver cake and your attention right?!…. Ok now lets remove the cat as well…. Which hand how? 100% the Liver Cake right?! So now you can teach your dog to do anything for you and they will learn doing these things brings a high reward, so are much more likely to do these behaviours again until we are able to proof our training then ween them off the treats. check this out for more info on how to Proof & Ween.


Liver Cake Recipe