Why should I provide food rewards and praise during training?

Imagine this scenario: You’re in the park with your dog. She sees a squirrel and starts to chase after it—out of your view. You start to worry about possible dangers, so you start calling her. Do you think she’s more likely to run to you if she thinks she’ll be praised and maybe get a treat—or if she thinks you’ll reprimand and punish her?

The answer to that question is exactly why you need to provide food rewards and treats during training.

Use a positive-reinforcement technique when housebreaking your puppy. She might lapse and relieve herself in the house—she’s a baby and still learning, after all. So, whatever you do, don’t reprimand her. Instead, immediately take her to the designated “potty place” and keep praising her with, “good girl!” Since association is one of the major ways dogs learn, she will start associating that place with your lavish praise and will soon get the message to use that place all the time!

Training to follow basic commands should always be a pleasant and fun experience. It’s also a bonding experience and will establish you as the leader of her pack—and she’ll respect rather than fear you, so keep it upbeat and happy at all times.

Every single time she successfully completes a command, reward her with praise. If you use treats, give them abundantly (but watch those calories—and, really, she’d probably rather have your praise.) Conversely, if your dog is having trouble learning a command, by no means should you yell at her or reprimand her. Just stop what you’re doing and return, a few seconds later, to a different, easier command, and then praise her for successfully completing that.

Another reason you want to praise her or give her a treat is attention. You just can’t train a dog that isn’t paying attention to you—and you can be sure she’ll have all eyes on you if you have a treat in your hand. While we’re on the subject of attention, you always want the dog to maintain eye contact with you. The minute she makes eye contact praise her abundantly, and if you so desire, give her a treat.

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