Let me just say that the word “treat’ implies that there is something particularly special about the quality or the palatability or the salience. Remember that “treat” also can be an experience that is pleasurable. In the life of your dog that could be a great game, a cuddle or a belly scratch, a ride in the car or going to the pet store.
Food rewards are a very obvious way of marking a behavior because it’s practically impossible for the dog to misunderstand that it is a reward or pleasurable consequence for something they have just done. It also registers in a non- intellectual and instinctive way. The scientific label is that it is a “primal” reward. Primal meaning: it is necessary for sustaining life.
I will discuss “edible” treats here.
- Food rewards do not have to be “special” treats in a smaller bag that is labeled “treats”
- Your dog will not get fat if you use food intelligently.
- Treats can be food that is already in your fridge or your pantry:
- Diced fruit (apple, pear, water melon, strawberry)
- Cheese bits (creamy cheese licks, string cheese)
- Meat bits (chicken, turkey, hamburger, hot dogs, fish (sardines, bits of salmon, and little freeze dried fish)
If you buy training treats: please read ingredients!!!
Most commercial small and soft treats have glycerin and undesirable preservatives in them even though the front of the package says ALL NATURAL or HEALTHY. Freeze dried raw meat or food patties are a much better option.
It is also a very good idea to notice which foods the dog adores and which ones are only moderately interesting to him.
Your dog will always appreciate food rewards but because the value of the food transfers into the activity that the food was associated with you will not depend on food. You only need it once in a while to keep the behavior alive, but that is food for thought for another post.