We use food treats in training because they are readily available and easy to use a reward that is desired by a majority of animals.
However, you need to find what motivates each individual animal. Food should be used to train the animal initially, but you should gradually decrease the frequency of food rewards and replace them with other types of rewards. Many animals are poor generalizers and may learn to expect food with every demonstration of specific behaviour. Since you don’t want the food to become a bribe, you need to gradually replace the food reward with another valuable reward, such as verbal praise, or a pat on the head. Otherwise, the animal may become confused when they are not rewarded for their specific behaviour.
When choosing treats for training, select:
- High value treats– soft/moist treats, freeze-dried liver, chicken wieners, fresh vegetable or fruit, nuts or seeds
- Small pieces (easy to chew)
- Enough treats to last the full training session
A large treat may cause the animal to invest more time in chewing/eating the treat, and an animal that has to chew the treat for 10-15 seconds may forget why he received it in the first place.
Many animals will be grateful for ANY treats and will quickly learn to enjoy the “game” of training.
Jackpots: When using a food reward, offer jackpots occasionally and at unpredictable intervals. Use either extra special treats or a larger portion of treat.
Fine Dining: Most of the treat rewards we offer during training are like “fast food” – click, treat and move on. For fine dining, offer a handful of treats so the dog eats the reward more slowly, from your hand, while you add lots of extra praise.