Treat Training: Use Tasty Treats for Better ResultsPublished March 12, 2013
I’ve been taking Millie and Olive to our new dog park, and even though they do a great job playing nicely once in the park, getting there has been a chore. The parking lot for the park is a good distance away, so when you couple two excited dogs with a bunch of buddies barking and frolicking on the horizon, their first instinct is to pull-pull-pull to get there.
Dogs don’t always generalize well, which means that even though Millie and Olive are typically good leash walkers, they lose that skill when in a new and exciting environment. (And what’s more exciting than the dog park?) Though it would be easy to ignore their bad leash manners in this instance, I don’t want them to learn that pulling is a viable strategy to get what they want. The first few times we went I brought a pocket full of goodies and my clicker, only to discover that I’d been trumped: the treats were of no interest to them when compared to the promise of play. They blew the treats off as if I was offering Styrofoam.
People often complain that their dog ignores treats when doing leash training, as would seem to be the case with my dogs. I know Millie and Olive are extremely food driven, our problem was that the treats I selected were too boring. I liken it to the difference between graham crackers and German Chocolate Cake; both are desserts, but only one will really get you drooling! Using a super high-value treat can help you work through those seemingly impossible training challenges. Used in moderation, cheese, bits of chicken, or a little lunch meat can help persuade even the most obstinate student to fall in line.
We went back to the park on Sunday and this time I upped my game; I brought hot dogs instead of the usual treats. Millie and Olive were still very excited to get there, but the hot dogs helped them to do a borderline polite walk right up to the gate. (Not perfect, but much, much better.) I’ll continue to stack the deck in my favor by using meaty treats until the ladies understand that they need to walk without pulling no matter how excited they are, and then I’ll slowly wean them off of the hot dogs. As was the case with my dogs, a simple treat upgrade can mean the difference between getting ignored and impressive attentiveness!