Every day is Biscuit Appreciation Day for the humans at Dogs Monthly, but today our furry co-workers are extra waggy for it is International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day! Yes, that really is a thing!
According to new research, chicken is a dog’s favourite treat, with over 1 in 5 dogs choosing this as their top snack; this is followed closely by hotdogs and cheese. Unfortunately for International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, biccies didn’t make the top 10, but they can still be a very useful option when training your dog.
Analysts at Benchmark Kennels surveyed dog owners to find their favourite treats, and talked to professional dog trainer Ali Smith and animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers to reveal how best to train your dog using treats.
Ali said, “Certain breeds are definitely easier to train, but there is no ‘disobedient’ breed. Just some who are bred to be independent and some who are bred to work closely with you.
“More biddable breeds include German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Toy Poodles, Border Collies – essentially the breeds that are often deemed ‘smart’ breeds; the more aloof or independent breeds, like Huskies, Harriers, Shiba Inu, and a whole host of terriers, are usually equally smart; it can just be more difficult to find their wavelength.”
Treats can provide the perfect reward and incentive for pups to follow commands. Creating this positive connection between food and obedience can speed up the training process massively.
However, some dogs are also more inclined to work for food than others, such as greedy Labradors and Pugs! These breeds happily see treats as their reward whereas working dogs, such as spaniels, shepherds and collies, might find a toy and a good game of tug more enticing. The key to the training process is finding what motivates your dog in particular.
High- and low-value choices
The environment in which a dog is taught has a direct impact on their concentration levels and as a result, their ability to learn and absorb new tricks or habits.
Clinical animal behaviourist Rachel Rodgers said, “When teaching something new, or taking known tricks into an unfamiliar, distracting environment such as a park, we need to use higher value products, such as meat-based treats. When in a familiar place like the home, lower-value treats (such as more traditional, shop-bought biscuits like milk and gravy bones) can work well.”
While it may seem like treats are not compelling your dog like they should, it may be the case that what you are offering is simply not tempting enough to command your pooch’s attention, especially while they are in an interesting environment. It is a good idea to vary the treats that you give your pup to ensure that each remains interesting and does not lose its effect.
Barking at the doorbell, begging at the dinner table, jumping up at guests – we’ve all been there! However, specific dog treats can be used to fix these behavioural issues.
While these issues can be frustrating, it is essential to consider why a dog might be acting in such a way. After ruling out potential causes of pain or fear, it is worth considering that your pooch is oblivious to the fact that they are doing anything wrong.
Rachel Rodgers explained, “We should never punish a badly behaved dog because in the majority of situations, the reason that the dog is ‘badly behaved’ is that they have not been taught the right thing to do in the first place.
“Teaching an incompatible behaviour to the problem behaviour can be a great way to tackle common issues.
“If a dog is jumping up, scatter food on the floor: their nose will be down sniffing out treats which is incompatible with being up near someone’s face and jumping! They are also getting rewarded for keeping their four paws on the floor, which over time will become their new behaviour. Dog barks at the postman? Teach them to lie quietly on the bed where they will get a tasty chew.”
In praise of biscuits…
While small, soft treats are perfect for training and teaching tricks as canines can eat them quickly, longer lasting treats such as biscuits can be ideal when teaching pooches to be calm around visitors. Giving a long-lasting biscuit or chew on their bed when people arrive can also help dogs learn to settle and relax in a set area rather than jumping all over guests. It is all about choosing the right kind of treat depending on the situation or environment.
Although dogs only have about one-sixth of the number of taste buds that humans have, we can’t help but wonder if our pooches have snack preferences.
Ali Smith was able to shed some light on the subject. According to Ali, our furry friends tend to favour flavours of liver or whole proteins, such as chicken and ham. However, it is worth keeping in mind that some treats are definitely healthier than others. Just like human food, the less processed, the better: recognisable ingredients are always a good sign!
The second most popular snacks, after chicken, were hot dogs and sausages –without onion and garlic, of course, which are harmful for dogs.
Rachel Rodgers recommends using this food as a training incentive: “Small pieces (no larger than your small finger nail) of hot dog or ham can be really good high- value treats for training.”
However, Rachel also warns that meat products with a high salt content are harmful for our doggos and should be avoided. To be safe, stick to reduced-fat and low-salt hot dogs, with no garlic or onion powder flavouring.
Not taking the biscuit
Biscuits didn’t feature in the top treats from the survey of 300 dogs*:
1 – Chicken (freeze-dried, baked, or boiled) – 61 (20.3%)
2 – Hot dog/sausage (no onion/garlic) – 47 (15.7%)
3 – Cheese – 46 (15.3%)
4 – Beef liver (freeze-dried, baked, or boiled) – 43 (14.3%)
5 – Kibble – 35 (11.7%)
6 – Salmon jerky (freeze dried fish or skin) – 26 (8.7%)
Joint 7 – Carrot – 21 (7%)
Joint 7 – Beef jerky (no additives/salt) – 21 (7%)
Joint 7 – Ice cubes – 21 (7%)
8 – Peanut butter (no Xylitol) – 20 (6.7%)
*The research totals 341 treats chosen – some dogs recalled equally effectively for multiple treats.