Want to teach your dog to sit? stay? How about roll over in under 30 minutes. Here's a really easy way to "bribe" your dog to do just about anything you want.
It goes without saying that most dogs love food. They love food almost more than they love anything else in the world – aside from their owners, of course. And one of the best methods of training can be using their love of treats as a form of positive reinforcement.
While treats don't have to be the only reward – you can also use toys, praise or anything that makes your dog happy – they can be the simplest way to start out. Rather than practicing positive reinforcement, many owners wait until the dog disobeys a command, and then punishes them for it. But research has proven that negative reinforcement like that doesn't work. And even when it does deter a dog from bad behavior, it isn't exactly teaching them good behavior or commands that are important in training a well-behaved dog.
Instead, you should focus on rewarding the good behavior.
Treats are a great way to start out, even if you eventually want to transition them over to praise alone. The key is finding the right treat. Training treats shouldn't be large or require a lot of chewing. It should be a small, quick bite, and no larger than a pea so they can easily move on to the next command (and treat). It also must be yummy enough to entice the dog.
We recommend our all natural bone-shaped treats. They are perfectly sized to fit in the palm of your hand, which allows you to carry them everywhere for easy training. And it is just the right size for training any type of dog, big or small.
Commands like sit, stay, come, and more, are important not only to save your sofa or prevent your dog from jumping up on you with their dirty paws, but for your dog's safety as well. Plus, you can show off all the neat tricks to your friends.
But more than that, it allows you to communicate with your dog so that they understand what's expected of them. Honestly, it's true what they say – your dog truly does want to please you. They just don't know how. Their brains aren't wired like ours and they don't understand our language. And while we we can teach them commands, they usually come to us confused, not knowing what any of it means.
With patience and positive reinforcement, your dog will start to understand and relate to the world around him a bit better. It will not only lead to a well-behaved canine friend, but also a stronger bond between pet and owner.
Now that you're stocked up on delicious treats, here are a few basic commands to start you off on training.
Sit is probably the most basic command to teach a dog. Most dogs learn how to sit pretty easily, and it's the foundation for many of the other commands they'll learn later – like stay or wait. Many people teach their dog to sit by pushing on their rump and rewarding them when it goes down. But it is far better and meaningful to the dog, if you let them learn the motion for themselves. With some practice – and some handy dandy treats, of course – it can be just as easy to do it without forcing them into the position.
1) Hold the treat close to his or her nose, and make sure their eyes, and their head, are following the treat. Move your hand up, palm out. Tell him to “Sit”.
2) As you move your hand, they should look up, which in turn causes their butt to lower. Eventually, their butt will hit the floor, and this is when you give him the treat and praise him for sitting.
3) Wash and repeat. Or rather, just repeat in this case. Eventually the dog will associate the word and the hand motion with the action, and before long, they'll sit naturally on command!
Stay is one of the hardest new commands to teach a new puppy. The reason? Think back to when you were a child full of energy and excitement. There were times when you couldn't sit still for more than half a second, am I right? For a puppy, everything is new and exciting and they want nothing more than to be at their owner's side, getting all the affection and love they can handle and then some.
Patience is the key to teaching your dog how to stay. You want to always start out with your dog on a leash or long rope – and inside your home or yard at first. Keep distractions to a minimum early on or else you may be asking too much of your puppy. Eventually, once they're older and know the command, you can introduce distractions such as other dogs, toys or new people. But for now, start out with just you and the pup.
1) Have your dog on a long leash or lead. Have him sit down next to you.
2) Hold up your hand with your palm flat and facing them – the typical hand signal for stay. Tell the dog to “Stay”.
3) Step in front of your puppy, just a little bit. Don't go too far. Wait a few seconds, but for only a few seconds – you want to set your dog up for success, not failure. Then go to your dog, give them over the top praise and hand them the treat.
4) If he or she doesn't stay, calmly say something like, “Uh uh” and put him back where he was initially. And try again. Don't reward your dog until he actually stays.
5) Repeat this process, eventually moving further and further away. Take it slow. Eventually, step out of sight for a few seconds before coming back and rewarding him for staying.
Those are only two of the most basic commands, but they are invaluable. After mastering the basics, you should be able to move on to other commands, always remembering to reinforce their positive behavior. The key to positive reinforcement is rewarding their behavior as it happens. Dogs don't have the best attention spans and may not associate the action with reward unless it's timed just right. You can also use a clicker to help them associate their good behavior with the reward, clicking when they listen to the command followed with the treat. It's just one more way to make training easier and more enjoyable for you and your dog.
There's no limit to what you can teach your dog once they have the basics down. Just remember to have fun while you're at it, and chances are, your dog will be having just as much fun as you!
Rocky Kanaka is an entrepreneur, pet rescue advocate and dog dad to a rescue boxer named Flip, a blind Cane Corso called Kobe, and a terrier mix named Zoey. He's also a pet chef and owner of The Dog Bakery, which specializes in dog birthday cakes
and fresh baked dog treats. His three dogs can't get enough of the dog cakes and treats!
Lorna Paxton Ladd is a passionate dog lover and enthusiast of The Dog Bakery. She loves spoiling her 3 rescue dogs with dog cakes
and jerky. A 15 year veteran in the pet industry, her aim is to educate pet parents on the best recipes, products, tips and tricks to optimize the human/canine bond. Her favorite product at The Dog Bakery are the customizable dog birthday cakes.