What size of treat should I serve my dog during training sessions?

Many are using positive reinforcement methods of dog training, such as clicker training that usually calls for the use of dog treats to teach dogs new behaviors.
It’s a great way to lure dogs to do the behavior you want; the dog will really want to engage in that particular behavior because she’ll know a treat is on the way if she does.

Just be sure to keep the treats small. It’s the reward they’re really after, say many veterinarians and dog trainers, not the size of the treat. For most dogs just a small nibble of something is enough to do the trick.

Some people disagree with the use of treats, however, because they think it seems more like bribery than training tools. Others think it’s a little inhumane to make a dog work so hard to eat. But that is simply not true, say positive reinforcement specialists. Treats simply help you to get the behavior you want from your dog, and then let your dog know that she performed the behavior correctly.

Positive reinforcement dog trainer Shelby Semel always compares it to a paycheck saying “After all, we have to work for our money, don’t we?” Therefore, even if you loved your job, you’d probably stop showing up for work if you didn’t get paid. Same thing with dogs: They are simply a means of making sure your dog shows up eager to work when it’s time for a training session.

You do need to be concerned with the obesity problem, though, because according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over 54 percent of adult dogs in the U.S. are now overweight or obese. That can reduce a dog’s life by as many as 2.5 years and cost you hundreds of dollars in veterinarian visits for chronic illnesses.

Make sure, then, that treats and snacks never comprise more than 10 percent of your dog’s daily caloric allotment; the formula is that, depending upon activity level and age, the dog will need 25 to 30 calories per day per every 5 pounds of weight.

Try to use healthy snacks like apple slices (no seeds or cores, because they’re toxic), cantaloupe pieces, green beans, peas or berries. Ask your veterinarian or dog trainer for a complete list of healthy, low-calorie dog treats.

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