Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Using Treats in Dog Training

Training your pet is a very important stage in his or her development as a member of your family. A common practice during these activities is to employ the use of food as a motivator and reward, however there are multiple reasons why the avoidance of using treats in this way may be the best choice for your pup!

1) Avoiding using treats in training is to help your dog maintain a healthy weight.

According to the National Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50 percent of canines in the United States are classified as overweight or obese by veterinarians. Of course, not all of these cases are due to the use of treats during training, however excessive consumption of treats or any food can contribute to quick and significant weight gain in your pet. Keeping your pet’s weight in an average range is critical in preventing many obesity-related conditions such as diabetes, liver and kidney failure, and heart disease.

2) Some dog breeds are just not food-motivated.

What? A dog that isn’t motivated by food? Yes, it’s true! Within any given dog breed you will find many personality types as it relates to food motivation, prey drive, and play drive. Labradors and Beagles are especially food-motivated, while many terriers, herders, and guardian breeds tend to be less so.

3) Dogs with sensitive gastrointestinal tracts often do best with non-food reliant training methods.

Treats can irritate already sensitive digestion in your pup, causing diarrhea, stomach upset, or other digestive complications.

4) Some dogs are sharp and will figure out the formula after a while!

Dogs can learn your method as it relates to treat giving due to conditioning and repetition. The treat has now lost its value because your dog is suspicious. As a result, the training session is less likely to be successful.

 5) Sometimes, it may be more appropriate to reward a dog with things other than treats.

In certain situations, other methods of positive reinforcement will be a better fit for your dog. Things such as positive talk and play may better fit the current environment. An example of this would be a packed dog park, where the introduction of treats might upset the balance of things and make other pups jealous!

If your dog is obese or overweight, not food-motivated, has a sensitive gastrointestinal tract, has figured out your training method, or you would prefer to not use treats in training, there are still actions you can take in place of this which will continue forward progress in your training exercises. You can give your pup chew toys, extra affection and attention, or additional playtime as “treats” to substitute as food. Your dog is really after the reward, not the food.

Another wonderful “treat” you can give your pup is to increase the amount of exercise your dog gets by playing games like fetch or taking your dog on more frequent walks. Because some overweight dogs may have breathing problems and can be more prone to overheating, start out slowly and gradually increase the length and intensity of your exercise sessions. This fun addition to your dog’s day will put your dog (and yourself) in the right mindset for training.

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