Puppy Bribes Equal Puppy Learning Equals Good Dogs
One new puppy means one or two puppy training classes and you soon learn it means a lot of treats. Dogs that are mouthy are dogs that are great for retrieving but they are also dogs highly responsive to treat bribes, err, treat incentives used in positive behavior training. Labrador retrievers are only one of the breeds that respond well to food bribes for training and for behavior modification. All treats work, some just work considerably better. Some will get their attention until something better comes along; some are the "Doves Chocolate" equivalents that will have them sitting the moment you think the command. In training my recent Labrador puppy we went through the Petsmart Good Citizen class and then a real class where our active puppy had room to move. Both trainers had strong suggestions for bribing our puppies. This is a guide to my experiences with what really worked and what sort of worked (until something better came along).
The world of dog training treats is extensive
Using these strategies I've extended this into learning other positive behaviors. Now, when I say good girl with an enthusiastic voice she jumps over next to me and sits in a close position knowing that she will get a treat that she enjoys. Yes, this is bribing but it's also teaching positive behaviors and letting her know what I expect. Recently, on an extended road trip we stayed at an "inn" that had three floors and naturally they placed us on the third floor. The stairs were in sections with a landing between every section. There was a total of six landings. I taught her to walk up one flight and sit and wait on each landing until I caught up. She received her favorite treat for doing this (and a laughing amount of praise), but it didn't take long for her to perform for just my laughter. The treat got her attention and my behavior in response to hers established a positive response.
Didn't work, could care less
Some treats simply did not get my dog's interest. She wasn't enthusiastic about eating this. It was too large for her mouth and we had to break them into thirds. Training treats encourage positive behaviors. If you say sit and your dog accidentally sits you jump on the moment with a reward. Hopefully the reward will be an incentive for a repeated response. That didn't happen. My very mouthy Labrador retriever puppy had no interest. She would eat it, but if I attempted to motivate her with this she ignored me. Experience with other puppies taught me that there could be a better response. These are also crunchy, rather than soft and chewy; they're not smelly and lack strong flavor.
Three Dog Bakery Itty Bitty Bones Peanut Butter Treats
These are small and perfect for training my Labrador puppy, the ingredients are human-quality but these are also excellent rewards for small dogs. You'll find that most dogs love peanut butter-flavored treats. As much as I loved these for her she preferred junk food treats for training incentive. She will eagerly perform for these in the house or driveway, but incentive to remain focused on the task when tempted by distractions such as grasshoppers and children and rabbits - this just didn't get the desired response.
Sniffers 101 Bitesize Ultimate Training Bits Dog Treats
Sniffers 101 might appeal to other dogs, but our always-hungry lab puppy was unmotivated by this motivational training treat. She quickly lost interest and focus. There was nothing about this that appealed to our puppy. For us it was convenient because it was available in the grocery. It fell into the category of you get what you paid for.
At the same time, we tried Nature's Recipe Training Treats. These resemble teeny pork chops (less than 1/4 inch in size) and while she would eat them and perform simple commands, she was uninspired and more difficult tasks just didn't happen. Both Sniffers and Nature's Recipe Training Treats are soft, chewy but they're not strong smelling. In using these up I placed them in a bag with favorite treats that flavored these and made them more appealing.
Some dogs absolutely love banana treats.
Three Dog Bakery Bountiful Baskets Fruit Chews
Three Dog Bakery claims these are paw-some. Our lab puppy agrees. If you don't have the resources to dehydrate and prepare your own then definitely consider the Bountiful Basket Banana Fruit Chews. The treat is human quality and the bananas in this basket were coveted by at least one human in our family. What I found while using these for training was that they were very effective in coating other treats with banana flavor. They're somewhat crunchy until you handle them a lot and then they rehydrate. I broke them into smaller pieces and mixed them in the treat bag with the other rewards.
- soft, moist treats were easier to swallow, in her eagerness to chew and continue training she often gulped and ended up choking on crunchy treats
- use a variety of training treats during a training session
- mix kibbles in with training treats
- save your puppy's favorites for learning new commands and difficult tasks, especially when you're working on focus skills in areas with lots of distraction.
- treats must be small and often when I thought they were small enough it soon became obvious they needed to be smaller.
- smellier and tastier treats will be the favorites and these are likely to be the ones we like least (I call my puppy a junk-food girl.)
- you will find favorites and some that don't work. Stick with the favorites. There are many other types of treats but I now know what works and I'm less willing to possibly waste money on something that's ineffective.
Three have worked absolutely best so far!
Our bribe pantry...
Beginning with Bil Jac liver treats I discovered that soft, chewy, smelly, and strong flavored as well as moderately disgusting worked just fine. These come in a regular size (that is still conveniently small) and an even smaller size for rewarding small dogs. The regular size would easily break into two pieces for my puppy's treats.
Bil Jac Liver Treats
I fully expect my nearly grown-up puppy to run off and bury my great-smelling vest. Think twice before shaking my hand - you might want to smell it first (or not). If you have a pup to train and your goal is to reward good behavior, definitely consider Bil-Jac Liver Treats - just don't get your nose too close. She'll do just about anything for one of these.
Bil Jac Gooberlicious
Several weeks ago we discovered Gooberlicious in peanut butter flavor and in banana flavor. It's the same size and consistency as the original liver treats and it still has liver. I've found that she actually tries to anticipate my commands. If we're walking and she knows I'm carrying this, the very mention of her being a good girl has her scooting into a sit and hold position next to me with a full-focus expression on her face.
Gimme, gimme, gimme! Now! What trick do I need to perform to get one? Just tell me and hurry! While our dog loves treats, she's all labrador so naturally she loves treats, some hold more lab appeal than others. Bil-Jac treats of any flavor seem to sit high on her list of favorites. When I hide a favorite toy and tell her to "find" it, and she knows this is the reward waiting for her, she gets so excited on the return that she drops her "find" several feet from me rather than at my feet. This reward is a natural favorite for her, Bil-Jack PB-nanas gets four paws up along with a head and tail.
Training is ongoing, I perform for laughter
We use treat balls for rewards and for mental stimulation. Whenever we walk there are treats in the pocket and neighbors who greet us along the way will accept a treat so they can try to get her to sit rather than leap enthusiastically. Labradors are incredibly social dogs and this is always the most difficult training task for me. Training is also a lifetime experience that will keep your aging dog alert.
When reinforcing training, especially with older dogs, it's fun to use biscuits and dog cookies -- you don't need these small treats designed specifically for training, but you should always keep a bag or two of them around. If you were successful with training your puppy, you will find that your older dog loves the interaction and welcomes the shared moments with you.
Joined:Jul 19, 2005
In the spring your hands should smell like soil, in our house our puppy smells like soil and puppy. All is right in the world.
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