As we all know, there are few things as enjoyable as seeing the expressions on our dogs’ faces when we give them their favourite treat after asking them to ‘sit’ or ‘give paw’, or even just ‘who’s a good boy?’. Giving treats to our beloved dogs can be one of the most enjoyable ways to show our affection.
There is a wide variety of commercial dog treats available, together with a lot of information about which treats your dog will guzzle up. But, just because your dog likes them, does not always mean they are appropriate…
When are treats appropriate?
Treats are the best way to reward your dog for any favourable behaviour. Giving a treat when a certain action or behaviour is exhibited is defined as positive reinforcement, and is the basis of most successful dog training programmes – for example, immediately rewarding your dog with a treat if he sits when asked. It is very important that the favourable action must be rewarded within a few seconds after being performed, for your dog to associate the treat with the action. Using treats is also a great way of turning scary situations into pleasurable experiences – for example, offering your dog a treat while cutting his nails or cleaning his ears.
Be cautious not to unknowingly reinforce an unfavourable behaviour with treats; for example, giving your dog a treat every time he starts barking to get him to stop, will most likely make him bark even more frequently, because he thinks he is being rewarded for this. Also, never give your dog any treats while you are eating, as it might make him beg for food from your plate. In my house, we have learnt to be very secretive about where the treats are kept, to prevent our doggy from spending hours waiting in front of the cupboard where he spotted the treats appearing from.
If you would like to continue reading this article by Dr Johan Jordaan, get yourself the April edition of Animaltalk magazine, available now from retail stores, including Pick n Pay, Woolworths, Checkers, CNA, PNA and leading bookstores. You can also order a printed or digital edition online.