When people think of dog treats, the first thing that probably comes to mind is giving a dog a bone, traditionally a milk bone. They are inexpensive, easy to carry and can quickly make someone a “fan favorite” during a neighborhood walk. But treats for dogs come in a multitude of forms; food, a favorite tug toy, a car ride, a game of fetch, or a natural bone to chew. Treats are really anything that gives a dog joy and value. However, this “value” is different for every dog in any given situation. For example, my dog is happily obsessed with playing fetch with a particular ball. She would much rather chase that ball than eat treats. Without the ball around, she will eat a dog treat, but with less enthusiasm. Therein lies the tricky part. If we learn how to provide the mostvalue to an individual dog, we can easily manage and improve their behavior.
Rewards Can Increase the Motivation for Change
Using treats for rewards is common practice because we understand that the more a behavior is rewarded, the more often it will occur. This in evident in everyday life. In school, kids are rewarded with stickers and prizes for anything from displaying good listening skills to selling an abundance of wrapping paper for school fundraisers. These prizes are sufficient “treats” because they provide value to the kids. Utilizing this same concept with dogs can be done by carrying high value treats whenever out n’ about. Pay attention to what gets your dog excited or holds their attention. If you’re not sure, skip the milk bones or the dry “training treats,” and grab soft, smelly treats that are more universal in redirecting your dog’s attention away from the random squirrel.
“Do I Always Have to Carry Treats if I’m Not Really Training My Dog?”
This is a question I get a lot. I look at it this way – when we head out the door, do we always carry a credit card, our cell phone, sunglasses, water or snacks for kids? Maybe, or maybe not, it depends on a variety of factors. But it’s easier if we have these items readily available. By gathering a few critical items, individuals can experience more joy together to partake in spontaneous events, have increased safety, or avoid the likelihood of “hangry” meltdowns.
Being Proactive is Much More Enjoyable than Being Reactive
By thinking ahead and preparing for whatever may come, we are not only setting ourselves up for a day of fun, but also ensuring a calmer outing for everyone involved. Consider that person who is always prepared for being out longer than anticipated. They are the one who’s car has a dedicated snack bag with food, extra clothes for a change in the weather, and water that is both for people and dogs.
Grab the Treat Pouch Every Time You Walk Your Dog
Whenever we venture out with our dog, it’s best to prepare for the unpredictable and unexpected. Quite simply, a handful of yummy treats can easily save the day. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been out training dogs when there are other loose dogs around. Sometimes they are friendly, and sometimes not. By tossing treats during an unexpected dog encounter, a scary or uncomfortable situation can quickly be diffused. If the dog is a stray, treats can be used to help capture the dog for return to their owner. Treats can determine the difference between a dog walk that is enjoyable and adventurous versus a walk that is frustrating and filled with angst of what lies ahead. Lastly, randomly rewarding a dog’s good behavior and catching them being calm in new situations ensures more calm behavior will come our way in the future.