When to give a treat, and how
When teaching a dog or puppy something new, food can be extremely useful to teach them when they've got something right. Food is naturally reinforcing and a well timed treat can encourage a dog to repeat desirable behaviours.
Most people know that the timing of your food delivery can be important, but the PLACEMENT of your food is just as important. HOW you give a dog a treat can be the difference between a dog that does a brilliant “stay” and a dogs that comes running over and jumps up.
Reward your dog in position
Whatever you are teaching your dog, bringing the food to them while they are still in position will make your training much more successful. Here are some common cues and how to improve them;
DO: Bring the food to your dog while they're still in position
DON'T: Feed your dog after they've already stood up to get it, this encourages the dog to quickly spring out of position.
DO: Return to your dog to feed before releasing them.
DON'T: Call your dog out of their stay to feed… You've just reinforced a recall!
DO: Feed your dog with the hand closest to them
DON'T: Feed your dog with the hand furthest away from them, this encourages your dog to cross in front of you while walking.
DO: Feed your dog with all 4 paws on the ground (this means bending down to bring the food to your little ones!)
DON'T: Feed your dog after they've jumped up to get the treat, especially if you're trying to discourage jumping.
Using your food to “reset” a behaviour
For behaviours that require a bit of duration, you can use the way you deliver a treat to reset a behaviour, giving your dog the chance to offer it again. For example, after a few repetitions of “lie down” where the food is brought to the dog while they stay in position you can “release” your dog by throwing the food away from them and saying “OK!”. This causes them to get up and means you can practise getting them lying down again. With “heel” you can throw the food into some grass for them to sniff out, giving your pup the opportunity to check back in with you and carry on.
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