Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Importance of High Value Treats

The past few "field trips" we have been on has really made me want to write this post about treats.

Long story short, high value treats and a high rate of renforcement is critical. I cannot say this enough, and it may seem obvious, but I think it needs to be said...and have its own post to boot!

Rate of Reinforcement
This is something I was lacking on but have started to fix. I realized that my rate of reinforcement was just not high enough for certain situations. Think about if you are treating often enough. For example, if the dog is walking past a distraction, think about breaking that exercise down into the "baby steps". A dog might not be able to complete an entire might want to be treating for every two or three steps. This is a higher rate of reinforcement and at the same time, you are breaking down the task into easier chunks.

Something as little as taking a step can be monumental for a dog, so remain sensitive to this fact and treat accordingly.

I always make sure I have more than enough treats in my bag. We are still at a point where if I run out of treats, I am completely unarmed to deal with any situation. I always make sure we head home before the treats run out. I say "before" because if I run out and then turn to head home, get in the car, walk five feet from point a to can bet that something catastrophic will fall from the sky right into Rocket's face. It always does. I know this from bad experience!

So, load up that treat bag and be ready!

Currently in mine we have cheerios, soft chewy treats, kibble, and then I carry in the front pocket "the big guns" - hot dogs and cheddar cheese. I like to switch up every so often to keep things exciting and interesting, and I like to make sure I leave some very high value treats for only very "special" things - such as recalls.

Rocket will actually work for kibble, which may not work for your dog, but this and the cheerios count as low value treats. I give them for when she offers a behavior that maybe wasn't "that big of a deal"...and on the reverse, I break out the hot dogs for the "big deal" and for emergency situations. She loves food, so she is always more than happy to work for kibble when she is at stress level zero. As distraction/stress increases, then I have to remain aware of what I am giving her.

Other dogs = hot dogs. Sitting when no one is around and she's totally calm = cheerios.

I like all of these things because they are small which means I can literally be shoveling treats in her mouth for the whole session and not actually feed her too much. I always take into account her treat intake to make sure she is getting balanced nutrition.

Please remember, always make good choices when it comes to your dog's diet: consult with your veterinarian.

Notes From a Dog Walker: High Value Treats for DINOS

Kikopup/Emily Larlham: Calm Treat Deliveries

Kikopup/Emily Larlham: What Treats to Use

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