My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Are You Treat Dependent? Quick Quiz

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Treat Training a PuppyThis bubbly woman had been treat training with her puppy for months. They had gotten the basics down well…when all was calm. When distracted, this had started to break down (as it generally does) and, by the time I was called, we had typical treat-focused adolescent dog behavior happening. Meaning, when the treat was the most interesting thing around, the puppy did awesome. When anything else interested the puppy more than the treat, the pup focused there.

This is a standard phase for many people and dogs so I said my standard line, “Time to put away the treats for the basics.”

The woman looked shocked (maybe even a bit horrified).

I realized had two beings who had become treat dependent and my guess was that the puppy would get over it much faster than his human.

Can you relate to feeling that dog training has to involve treats? Treats are wonderful tools for teaching, clearly I’m a big believer, but they are just one tool and certainly aren’t the only tools. Nor are they the best tool in every situation.

Are you treat dependent? Take this quiz:

I feel like I must have a treat in my hand before I give a command.
Yes or No?

If my dog doesn’t respond, I show him the cookie or get a better cookie.
Yes or No?

When I deliver the treat,  I don’t usually praise or touch my dog.
Yes or No?

I do not believe my dog would work “just” for my attention or praise, I believe treats are required.
Yes or No?

If you answer yes to most of these, it may be time for you to kick the habit (or at least adjust the habit). If you want your dog to work for your praise, you must offer it warmly, sincerely and in a way your dog enjoys. And you must be ready for an adjustment period as you both become a little less food-focused and more socially engaged.

Save those delicious treats for your dog’s best efforts, for the hardest tasks, and for new tricks. Give praise and petting and sometimes a treat for the rest. Move ever toward the very best your dog can offer and offer your dog the very best of you and watch things improve.

And they will.

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