It’s common to ask, what should you do before giving a dog a treat?
As a pet parent, you will need to know the ins and outs of giving your dog a reward when it is warranted and what type of reward you should choose.
With the help of this guide, you’ll not only learn how and when to give your dog treats, but what type of treats are best for your pet.
Benefits of Positive Reinforcement
When you reward your dog with a treat after showing acceptable behavior or following a command, you’re showing what is known as positive reinforcement.
This act is when you are reinforcing positive behavior with something you know your pets will love, whether it’s verbal affirmation, affection, or a tasty treat.
Many pet owners believe that positive reinforcement is the best way to train your pet, as it helps to avoid harmful measures that would typically stop undesirable behavior.
Instead of punishing your pet, you will be able to reward them for showing good acts, which can also help to strengthen your bond with your pet.
There are several reasons as to why positive reinforcement is as beneficial as it is, including:
There’s no doubt that positive reinforcement is far more effective than punishment methods, such as choke or shock collars.
When your pet is given something beneficial, they are going to be far more likely to exhibit the correct behaviors than if you were to punish them for doing something wrong.
Many dogs may also start to show signs of fear or anxiety when they are faced with severe consequences for their actions.
2. Improving the Bond
The best way to understand this advantage is to put yourself in your dog’s shoes.
You would be far more likely to gravitate towards someone who rewarded you for your good behavior than someone who punished you for poor choices.
The most lovable characteristics of dogs are that they are seemingly willing to do anything to impress their owners.
When they do, it is emotionally rewarding for both you and them.
Every time that you praise your pet for doing as you ask, you’re gaining more trust with them to where they will want to be your friend and, eventually, family.
You’ll want to make sure you love and encourage them every step of the way.
Positive reinforcement is a fantastic way to improve your dog’s motivation when it comes to training.
As they know they will receive a delicious treat or praise, they’ll be far more willing to cooperate when you want to teach them to sit or heel, for example.
You might even find that your pet will relate the training to playtime, although they’ll also be learning in the process.
What Should You Do Before Giving a Dog a Treat?
Now that you understand the importance of positive reinforcement, learning how to give your dog a treat can help to reinforce positive behaviors healthily.
We highly recommend considering these steps when it comes time to reward your dog.
1. Stay Relaxed
The number one thing to remember when rewarding your dog is you want to show them the same behavior that you would expect on their end—calmness and relaxation without any sudden and significant movements.
For example, you won’t want to let your pet smell their treat and then lift it out of their reach so that they have to jump for it.
This process may teach your dog that to receive their reward, they need to be anxious and excited, which can be the complete opposite of what you expect from them.
Instead, you’ll want to have the treat in your hand, bring it to their chest level, and calmly open your palm, allowing them to take the treat out of your hand.
If you want to teach them a command at this point, such as waiting until they are given the goody, you can use this time to teach them.
2. Reward Only Good Behavior
This point could also branch out of keeping calm and relaxed when giving your pet a treat.
The whole point behind positive reinforcement is to show your pet that they are being rewarded for showing good behavior.
This means that you won’t want to give them anything if they are antsy, whining, or pawing for a treat.
Even though it might be tempting to give in to their puppy eyes, if you give them a treat when they’re begging, they will learn that begging is what needs to be done to get what they want.
3. Figure Out Timing
Knowing when to give your dog a treat will depend on the type of goodies you have and how large or small they are.
Smaller treats can be given more frequently, as they are less likely to affect your dog’s diet.
You may have noticed that some of the best training treats are smaller than the size of a dime.
This is so that you can continually reward your dog’s good behavior without the risk of obesity.
High-reward treats, on the other hand, such as a large biscuit or some human food, should only be given whenever your dog shows exceptional behavior.
Alternatively, you can also use high-reward treats to encourage your pet to exhibit certain behaviors that they may feel uncomfortable doing.
For example, you can offer a high-reward treat to get your dog on a walk or to get them to feel more comfortable sleeping in their crate or kennel.
As an essential tip to remember, the American Kennel Club suggests that only 10% of your dog’s diet should be from treats.
4. Develop Your Commands
Above all else, the most important thing to do when you’re learning when to give a dog its treat is to develop a list of commands that you will use daily.
Some pet owners use traditional terms such as “sit” or “stay,” while others may use commands in different languages or forego verbal commands altogether.
You may find that visual commands, such as holding your hand a certain way for a specific behavior, is best for your pet.
Once you have your list developed, you can then begin the training process with some of your pet’s favorite training treats.
Popular Commands for Dogs
When you begin training, there are three main commands that your dog should be taught before you delve into more personal ones.
You’ll want to start with “Sit,” then move onto “Stay,” and finish with “Down.”
“Sit” is by far the most basic command that pet parents look into because it sets a strong foundation for all other training methods, such as lying down, heeling, and more.
- Step 1: By holding a treat in your hands, kneel so that you are in front of your dog or puppy, allowing them to smell the treat without letting them eat it.
- Step 2: Hold the treat behind their ear and audibly say “Sit,” giving enough time for your pet to put its bottom on the ground.
- Step 3: When they are sitting, repeat the verbal command and give them a treat.
- Step 4: Continue with this process, changing between treats and praise until none are needed for them to sit.
For the safety of your dog, teaching them to “Stay” is vital so that they know not to run off when you’re standing still or when you enter or exit a house.
Fortunately, once they are taught to sit, your dog will find that staying is simple.
- Step 1: Use your “Sit” command and wait until the dog is sitting, then put your hand out and say “Stay” while holding your hand in a stop position.
- Step 2: Take one to two steps backward and continue to say “Stay,” rewarding them if they do not move as you move.
- Step 3: Continue with the first two steps until your pet can stay in their position as you walk farther and farther away from them.
“Down” is quite simple, as it’s the command you teach your dog if you want them to lie down if they’re getting too excited.
- Step 1: Holding a treat in your hand, let your dog see and smell it, then close your fist and bring your hand to the floor.
- Step 2: As your hand moves closer to the ground, so will your dog’s head, and at this point, you will want to say “Down.”
- Step 3: When they lie down entirely to obtain the treat, give them their reward as well as verbal and physical praise.
The Best Treats for Dogs
There are many different store-bought items that you can use for rewarding your pets; however, you will want to make sure they will seamlessly fit into their diet.
If your pet has specific dietary requirements, opt for treats that are free of wheat, soy, and corn, as they are typically the easiest to digest.
You will also want to choose goodies that are small or can be broken down into smaller pieces for training.
A few examples of fantastic treats you likely already have at home include:
- Sweet potato
- Peanut butter
Knowing what should you do before giving a dog a treat can help you to train your pet quickly and efficiently.
Instead of having to invest a lot of time and effort into getting your pets to show outstanding behavior, they will be highly motivated thanks to your newly improved system.
Teaching your pets how to sit, lie down, and stay has never been easier than with the help of positive reinforcement.