People often say to my dogs, “OMG, you get a lot of treats.” Sometimes they go a step further and elaborate to the dog, “Too many treats will make you FAT.”
Let’s clear up a few misconceptions. Yes, OMG my dogs get a LOT of treats. No, my dogs are not fat. Why not?
1 – I am not using cupcakes.
Maybe some people think corn chips and cupcakes are treats. It’s their midnight snack. I call those junk. Fresh veggies from the garden are a treat. Likewise, my dogs get a variety of healthy, yet tasty, food options. Those often include various dog foods, organic meats, vegetables and cheese. My dog’s “treats” are probably healthier than your supper.
2 – Inedible rewards.
Asking a dog to sit prior to opening the door is a “treat.” You have opposable thumbs. You can open the door. The dog gets the treat of an excursion. Life offers plenty of zero calorie treats such as tug games, fetch and play. Many include exercise and activities that help dogs stay healthy and fit.
3 – Clarity through consistency.
During the initial stages of training, dogs are deciphering the rules. Rewarding good behaviour some of the time, and ignoring it other times confuses the dog. I want to take advantage of every opportunity to get my message across as quickly and efficiently as possible. So yes, OMG I use a lot of treats because I want the dog trained quickly.
4 – Proper technique means fewer treats.
Consistent feedback during training means the dog understands expectations quickly. Once this happens, I can wean dogs away from food rewards. Hit and miss feedback ironically means MORE treats because you need to feed for longer periods.
5 – Lack of carrots leads to sticks.
Many dogs try to be good. When it goes unnoticed, they misbehave. OMG I do use a lot of treats so I can avoid using OMG a lot of punishments.
I personally have no problem listening to the OMG, you use a lot of treats dig. I know my dog is not FAT. Like water off a duck’s back, I persevere. A properly executed training plan gives fast and effective results. While some people sneer, I am gloating knowing that the wiggling, friendly dog they are insulting used to be aggressive. OMG – I did use a lot of treats. Look at the results. Pretty impressive eh?
To all the people that are actively training their dogs, ignore the peanut gallery. They are the same people that will say, “OMG you should do something about that” when your dog misbehaves.
How would they feel if you dared to suggest that OMG – they get paid a LOT? Teachers should coach after school sports for free. Maybe musicians should play free gigs. After all, they love to play music. Funny, it sounds OMG insulting when the tables are turned.
That is why you should never feel badly about training your dog, especially if it includes proper techniques, healthy food choices and exercise options. OMG, you’re right I do use a lot of treats because OMG, I want my dog trained quickly and effectively.
I have found that dog people take judgmental and turn it into an art form or an olympic sport. If your child is overweight, at least most people won’t accuse you of being a bad parent to your face. (MOST people, lol)
This. I usually say “she has to work for her dinner” or something similar just to shift the ground of the conversation and if they say anything else I launch into an explanation of our daily food-measuring routine to combat the idea that I’m just thoughtlessly feeding her to make life easier (and that it really isn’t hard to treat a lot without overfeeding, you just have to think ahead). For some of them, it might plant a seed and if it doesn’t, at least it lets them know they won’t have an easy time shaming me for treating her. We also get a lot of “oh bribery” (often after I’ve answered some question about how we accomplish this or that without a fight). I find that a lot harder because while it’s often pretty condescending some of the people who say it use treats as well (if less than I do) but still have this cultural baggage about it and they’re not so much criticizing as expecting me to join in the self-depricating-about-using-treats club and a lot of them probably do use them in a way that’s more like bribery than positive reinforcement.
One piece of it I think is that I’m often treating for something most people either don’t notice or sort of think dogs should just come able to do, like focusing on me and staying nearby while people stop me to talk or ignoring a napkin on the sidewalk. To most people, that looks like treating her for doing nothing. I get that. Learning to see those “doing nothing” moments as difficult behaviors I have to train has been probably the most important paradigm shift in making my (mostly pretty easy but young and high energy) dog fun to live with.
“treating for something most people don’t notice….”
Exactly. Like when I’m working resource guarding, fear, handling issues…things that are not necessarily behaviours but associations. Just because the process is hard to see, does not mean it’s not there.
Thank you for this! This is great. Even when one of my dogs WAS fat, he got a lot of treats, and guess what, he still lost 15 pounds! It’s about using healthy treats and proper portions. And what’s wrong with getting a lot of treats? I just don’t understand people who act super judgmental for people who use food to train their dogs. Obviously the paycheck analogy is a great one, but the people who say “oh your dog will get dependent on food to listen to you,” well a) if you train properly the dog will not but b) even if the dog is dependent on food… so?? If the dog is doing what the person wants, and getting something good out of it, well, win win for everybody, right?