It is never too early or too late to begin working with your pup. Obedience training helps you bond and open up a clear line of communication between you and your furry friend. It also fulfills crucial needs for your dog, including exercise, mental stimulation, spending time with you, and having a fulfilling “job” to do.
FOOD AS A POWERFUL MOTIVATOR
Your pup may enjoy cuddles and toys, but food is a powerful motivator when learning new behaviors. Food has the power to enhance a dog’s ability to learn by raising dopamine levels in the brain and stimulating his or her natural desire to seek and earn the food reward, meaning that your dog is just as vested as you in perfecting that new command.
NOT ALL TREATS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Develop a sliding scale of treats, so that you can reward your dog for better performances and harder tasks. You can use a piece of your dog’s kibble or a dry Honest Kitchen Nuzzle treat to reward your pup for doing a simple command like Sit without distractions, a moderately exciting treat like Bocce’s Rewards or BIXBI Pocket Trainers when teaching your dog a new command indoors or reinforcing commands in new surroundings. Reserve really exciting, chewy, strong-smelling treats like beef or bacon jerky for listening to you when there are distractions outside or around triggers, like other dogs or guests in the home. If your pup is on a limited ingredient diet, consider freeze-dried treats or seeking inspiration on the label of his or her kibble. Odds are if pups tolerate ingredients in their food, they can tolerate them in the raw.
When practicing commands, slowly wean out constant treats through an intermittent schedule of reinforcement. Ask for a command and give your pup one treat, then ask for another command and reward him or her with a toy or cuddle, and then jackpot the next command with three treats, so that your dog never knows when the mother load is coming and will work with you regardless of knowing whether or not you have food in hand.
BUILD (S)IT AND THEY WILL COME
Most importantly, remember training your pup is about collaboration and should be fun for both dog and human. Set you and your furry friend up for success by starting with simple commands and once you’ve built trust, advance to more complex ones, such as Stay or Leave It. Happy Training!