Training your dog is very important, for the dog’s own happiness and safety as well as your own. Age is not a factor; you really can teach an old dog new tricks! You just have to do it right.
Why train your dog
Training your dog benefits the dog in many ways. As you work regularly with your dog, you’ll understand her needs and personality better, and you’ll develop a strong relationship, especially if the training is based on positive reinforcement.
Training also keeps everyone safe, including the dog. If she sees a squirrel and bolts after it while you’re walking her on a leash, she could hurt you. If she runs out into the street and doesn’t respond to voice commands, she could get hit by a car. If she jumps on people, she could frighten them, or even knock them down, which not only hurts the person but could open you up to a lawsuit.
Training improves sociability with people and with other dogs. As mentioned, jumping and barking can frighten or hurt others and will make your dog less welcome in another person’s home or make people less likely to want to visit you if the dog is around. Socializing also means your dog will behave well and even have fun when meeting another dog outside, and it will make it much easier for her and for you if you need to board her or leave her with a friend for a few days.
How to train your dog using positive reinforcement
Reward-based training involves ignoring unwanted behavior and only positively reinforcing wanted behavior. This can be a little challenging, especially when the dog is jumping or barking, but as long as no one is being hurt, ignoring will decrease its frequency, until you have trained it out of your dog with opposite, positive behavior.
In the beginning, using food as a reward is the best and fastest way to train your dog. Gradually, once she reliably performs the desired behavior about 90% of the time, you can start switching up the rewards, using a toy, a game of tug, or copious praise. But keep offering those treats occasionally, gradually decreasing them. This way, you don’t have to worry about always carrying treats around in your pocket for every time your dog sits on command.
However, you should continue to use treats with your dog from time to time, because in a world of constant distractions, she may begin to slip from desired behavior. Especially outside, where there are squirrels to chase, smells to follow, scary noises of traffic, and the attraction of new people or new dogs, she will need to be well-trained and be rewarded from time to time for sticking to her training.
Avoid using a treat as a bribe. At the beginning of training, the dog may need to see or smell the treat first in order to obey, but very quickly you should hide the treat until the desired behavior occurs. If your dog won’t sit until she sees the treat, she is being bribed. Start over on that training, and simply do not give her a treat nor let her see a treat until she sits first.
What kinds of dog treats are best for training?
Choose only high-quality and healthful treats for training, since you will probably be giving your dog several treats a day. Let your dog tell you what she likes best. That’s why we recommend our samplers if you’re new to Saint Rocco’s Treats, so you can find out what your dog prefers.
Our own dog, Cooper, has been trained using our treats. Only the best for our dog! I’m sure you feel the same about your canine friends. We use only 5 ingredients in each type of treat, all human-grade. For sweeter treats, we use sweet potato or local honey rather than sugar or fake ingredients. This ensures that Cooper, and your dogs, receive healthy food, even when being treated.
You can switch up your treats with a piece of fruit or vegetable, as well, but dogs respond best to meat since they’re pretty much carnivores. You want a really desirable treat at the beginning of training to get the quickest results.
With training, consistency is key. Be sure to expect proper behavior consistently, and in the beginning, consistently treat her. This doesn’t mean you need to give a big treat. You can break up one of our treats into smaller pieces, thus only giving one or two treats a day, or you can use our Saint Rocco’s Sprinkles, which are small. The calories in treats should be counted into your dog’s overall daily calorie consumption in order to avoid her becoming overweight.
In fact, each of our packages has a chart showing how many treats we recommend each day, based on your dog’s weight. It’s important to us that your dog stays lean and healthy during training and throughout her life.
We make all our dog treats by hand in our Bucks County, PA kitchen. Contact us today to find the healthiest, yummiest treats for your dog.