The rate of reinforcement is always considered during dog training. Rate of reinforcement refers to the number of rewards you offer to your dogs in a period. More importantly, it allows you, the trainer, to manage your dog’s energy levels, behaviors, and performance during your training session.
If you want to keep your dogs motivated and interested during your training session, a high rate of reinforcement is advised. It usually generates a snowball effect, in which a behavior starts as a small successful performance and ends as a normal, everyday habit. A high rate of reinforcement requires you to reward your dogs with a lot of treats in a short period.
However, you should not give your dogs just any treats available for the sake of rewarding them something. Choosing the right treats is crucial and can distinguish a successful training session from an unsuccessful one. So how do you choose the right dog treat, you ask? Check it out here:
An effective reinforcer would encourage your dogs to work for it. If you’ve noticed that your dogs start to wander or do something else even after rewarding them, that may mean they are no longer enjoying the treats you are offering. If this is the case, you have to try something else.
Another thing that you have to consider is the level of difficulty and environment of your training. For instance, a piece of kibble will be enough for the session if you are only training, say, in the living room. However, for a more distracting setting (e.g., close to roads with traffic noise, around a group of noisy dogs, or chattering people), a diced hot dog is way better. But make sure to choose a variant that is safe for your dog to consume.
Offering different kinds of treats every training session can maximize each of the treats’ value. It’s recommended to store 3-4 (or more) different types of dog treats on hand. This will let you quickly switch to another if your dogs lose their interests in one kind.
If you suddenly want to reinforce good behaviors, like when your dog lies quietly on the dog bed, an immediate reward should always be at your disposal. Leftover meat won’t work. Hence, this is a situation where non-perishable treats come into play.
First, you can store non-perishable treats inside your bag or car without worrying that they will turn bad. Second, they are convenient, especially for impromptu training. They are already cut up to the perfect sizes, making them easy to keep in your pocket. Carrying around a handful of these treats will allow you to reinforce good behavior to your dogs anytime, anywhere. Having said that, other pet owners misconstrue non-perishable treats as unhealthy. However, not at all times. Let’s use Zukes as an example. According to Dog Lovers Pup, Zukes dog treats are grain-free, preservative-free, and are usually made with wholefoods.
Furthermore, you may also use toys you can stuff with food that your dog likes. For example, you can use a Kong. For a time-consuming treat, fill it with peanut butter or cream cheese. You may also plug the end, fill it with some meat-flavored broth or some fruits, and keep it in the freezer. These treats are great options on a hot day.
When you want to teach your dog with new behaviors, opt for fast-eating treats. If dogs can eat their rewards quickly, you can immediately proceed to the next repetition. With a treat like this, your dog can stay attentive and practice better as a result.
On the other hand, if your dog takes its time eating its treat, you’ll have to wait longer between repetitions. This consequently results in fewer repetitions per training or extending your training time, which may cause your dog to lose its focus.
One way for your dogs to eat their treats fast is to make the portions smaller. Also, opting for smaller treat sizes will not make your dogs full before the session ends. It has been said that for every full 3-minute successful dog training session, trainers can easily deliver 30-40 treats. Again, that’s merely for one session.
Even worse, dogs can gain weight rather quickly. That’s why tidbits of treats can keep your pets’ weight and waistline on the check. This is particularly advisable during intense dog training, where trained dogs don’t only learn a lot but also consume a lot of calories. But how small should small treats be?
Some trainers and pet owners would give something that looks smaller than their dog’s mouth and teeth. A pea-sized treat may not sound like much, but it can be for small dog breeds. Likewise, for an entire meal, two regular-sized dog bones may be more than a 10 lbs dog usually have.
It’s best to refer to its calorie count when referring to a “small-sized” treat. You may also reduce your dogs’ regular meals to balance out the increase in your dog treats. If you like giving out higher-value treats, lessen their meals by half to avoid overdoing their calorie intake.
Soft and Pungent Treats
Since the last thing you want is a treat that takes a long time for your dog to chew, go for soft dog treats. You may opt for small cut-up bits of leftover/fresh hot dogs, deli meats, liverwurst, meatball, bacon, steak, burger, or chicken.
Avoid crunchy ones, like biscuits. You don’t want to wait for your dogs to find every single biscuit crumble on the ground during a session. Crunchy treats are better for one-off rewards, instead of a higher rate of reinforcement.
Soft treats aren’t only easy to chew but smell good, too. However, most dogs love treats that have a strong odor. That is why trainers often pull out kibble in a quiet area, while cheese or bacon in a more distracting place.
Always keep a variety of treats under your belt and let your dog choose the most reinforcing treat for him at the moment. Utilize the treat he has chosen in a novel, high-expectation, or difficult training. More importantly, keep in mind that the harder the behavior, the more valuable the treat should be. With these tips, your dog will surely be trained in no time.
Courtney John is an experienced freelance writer and animal advocate whose mission is to spread awareness against animal cruelty across the globe. When she’s not busy making ends meet, Courtney tours around the country supporting different animal welfare organizations and events. Courtney adopted her first pet at age 8 (a cat named Mojo), and has been passionate about animal rights since.