Do you need treats for dog training?

If you ask qualified dog trainers from different training disciplines whether or not to use treats when training your dog, you will likely get completely different answers. Some will insist you should always use treats because it’s nicer, while others insist there are other more effective ways to train your dog and that treat training is silly.  As with most things about dog training, I’m right in the middle and can see the pros and cons of both and will adapt my training approach depending on the people and the personality of their pup.

To me, there are two very different types of dog training that need attention and that two different approaches are needed.  I call them Behavior Training and Skills Training.

Dog Behavior Training

dog-destructionBehavior training, as I think of it, are about behaviors your pup displays that are  not acceptable.  This includes things such as jumping on people, counter surfing, getting on your furniture if that’s something you don’t want, aggression of any kind, and any potentially dangerous or unwanted behaviors.

For dogs displaying these types of behaviors, it is imperative that your dog understands who the Big Dog in the family is – and it’s not them.  Of course, this means that you need to be prepared to play to the role of the Big Dog.

Generally, this is where treats are normally not particularly effective because the dog winds up getting rewarded for the very thing you don’t want them to do.  What is more permanently and rapidly effective is using correction techniques that let the dog know in no uncertain terms that those behaviors are not ok and will not be tolerated.  Your pup needs to know that there are consequences when they misbehave and that they really need to listen to you, the Big Dog.

Dog Skills Training

heelingIn my mind, skills training includes obedience commands such as sit, stay, drop it, heel and the like, or tricks you want your dog to learn.  When you think about it, these really are skill sets that are not necessarily natural behaviors your dog would do without training.

For this type of training, treats can be used initially as a way to begin introducing your dog to the new skill.  Not all dogs require treats, but they can be handy if you happen to have a food motivated pup.  The treat can be used as a lure to show your dog what you want them to do.  Then, after they’ve got the basic idea, just saying “good dog!” or giving them a quick pat on the head is sufficient.




Easy Home Made Food Your Dog Will Love

After having a dog with unusual health issues, I have learned a lot about what makes for a healthy dog’s diet and have discovered that it’s really, really easy to give your dog a home made nutritious diet that keeps them healthy, happy and with coats that shine. Even picky eaters happily chow down on it.

Here’s the thing about kibble-only or kibble and wet dog food diets.  Dogs often eat the same exact meal day after day for years.  No wonder they get unhealthy!  Think about it – while salads are good for you, how healthy would you be if that’s the only thing you ate for your whole life?  Not very, because you’d be missing essential vitamins, minerals, and micro-nutrients in your diet. The same is true for your dog’s diet.

veggie basketIn general, a dog’s diet should be similar to ours – 1/3 carbs, 1/3 fruits and veggies, and 1/3 protein.  You may need to experiment with these proportions for your dog, but in general, these are good guidelines to start with. I feed a mixture of half grain free kibble and half home made.

I hate cooking, so do something really, really simple.  Here’s what I do about once a week:

Ingredient Mixture:

  • 1/3  long grained brown rice (I put in 2 cups of rice to make 4 cups cooked)
  • 1/3 mixed vegetables (one pound pack of frozen mixed veggies found on sale)
  • 1/3 protein (whatever is ground, lean and on sale – beef, chicken, turkey, etc.)
  • herbs-in-colored-jarsCulinary herbs such as rosemary, garlic, basil, etc. – herbs contain essential micro-nutrients that aren’t found in quantity elsewhere.  Although a few dogs are allergic to garlic, I always include it because garlic is a natural flea repellent and has the same health benefits for dogs as it does for humans. Use culinary herbs, rather than fresh, because they’re not as hard to digest.

Let the rice cook for 30 minutes, then toss the frozen veggies in the pot, bring it to a boil, and crumble in the meat and herbs while it’s coming to a boil again.  Cover and let it simmer for another 15 minutes (depending on the directions on the rice package).  This recipe makes 5 quarts and lasts for days in the refrigerator.

By alternating the types of mixed vegetables (no onions!) and the protein (turkey, chicken, beef), this same recipe provides nutritional variation and dogs love it. It’s easy and provides variety in their diet – which goes a long way to keeping them healthy and happy.

Try it!  Your dog will thank you.  And if you’re a kitchen loving cooking type, there are tons of home made dog food recipes that can be found online with simple web searches.  Enjoy!

Dog Disneyland Season

If you have a dog and live in a part of the country that has season changes, your dog has gone completely bonkers and is excited and overly stimulated by everything, right?  Dog Disneyland Season has arrived!  Young dogs, especially, have all gone nuts with the cooler weather, new smells, new sounds, and especially the abundance of squirrels, rabbits, and the like.

After several weeks of amazing progress, my pup Casey has lost his mind and gets overly excited and stimulated by everything – as have most other dogs I know. Much as it’s fun to watch, it’s also an exercise in patience, right?

crazy-dogOh well.  The good news is that they’ll eventually get used to it, settle down, and remember to use their brains.

If you don’t already know this, one thing to watch is for their excitement going over the top and getting them in trouble – especially if you take your pup to a dog park.  Overly excited and stimulated dogs can get into fights.  Personally, I’m restricting Casey’s park trips only to times when there are very few dogs in the park.  And he’s spending a lot more time on a long line where he can run around a bit and burn off steam but I can hang onto him when he loses it.

Patience!  They will find their brains again.  Eventually.  I’m reminding myself to laugh at the silliness and not get frustrated by the total lack of focus.  After all, how often do you get to go to Disneyland for a whole season?