Everyone keeps telling me how I need to reward my dog with treats, but he just doesn’t seem to like anything I try.
Denise Price advises…
Using treats is the most common way to reward a dog, but it isn’t the only way. Every dog is an individual and so will have his own preferences. Some dogs will work really well for toys. Think of the sniffer dogs searching for narcotics for the enforcement agencies – Springer Spaniels are often seen working their socks off, all for a game with their handler and a ball after a search.
What does your dog really enjoy? Is it a particular toy, being stroked, sniffing, or verbal praise that works for him? You can incorporate all of those things into his reward structure. Food is, however, a very useful and effective tool, so it would be great if you could improve your dog’s drive for food.
Firstly, make sure he’s not too full before your training session – ensure your dog is hungry enough to want the goodies you have to offer, but not too hungry (in which case, he can’t concentrate or get over-excited about the treats). Using part of your dog’s daily food allowance in your treat bag is often helpful and also helps prevent overfeeding. Avoid ‘free feeding’ your dog: if you make food available to him all of the time, he is much less likely to value any additional food you offer.
The other thing you can try is varying the treats. Using the same flavour is going to lose its attraction after a while. Go for novel treats – the more enticing the smell, the better. Fishy treats, such as dried sprats and salmon bites, are popular. Fruit and vegetables offer lowfat tasty options – for example, carrots, strawberries and blueberries (but never grapes, as these are toxic to dogs). Hot dogs, cocktail sausages, sliced ham and chicken breast are all readily available (use in moderation, as some are high in salt and fat). Perhaps a ‘licky’ kind of treat would work: cream cheese in a tube is highly rated by dogs, as is peanut butter (but make sure it does not contain xylitol, which is very toxic to dogs).
Finally, remember to keep each treat really small, just a morsel. That should keep your dog coming back for more.