The Dangers of Treat Training

By: Amanda Adamiak
Canine Behaviourist, VT, CTE, 6 Legs to Fitness Instructor

Treat training opens a variety of issues for both humans and dogs.

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The most dangerous issue is a false sense that the dog is paying attention to you, when in fact the dog is intently watching the food in your hand and NOT paying ANY attention to you. This inevitably creates a scenario where you find yourself and your dog in an emergency situation (dog darting onto the road, chasing a squirrel into a dangerous situation) and you don’t have a treat in your pocket. Sadly, your dog won’t listen to you without that treat and this can potentially end in the serious harm or even death of your dog. Or you spend 20 minutes at the dog park trying to get your dog to come as it bolts away from you because his/her doggy friends are MUCH more interesting than you OR the treat.

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The number one health issue we see at the clinic in our dogs is obesity. This creates so many preventable health problems including diabetes, lameness, heart disease and early death just to name a few. Giving your dog treats to show love is not love. In the end it’s shortening their lives and diminishing their quality of life. There are so many better ways to show a dog your affection other than bribery with treats.

Watch your dogs’ behaviour when they are with other dogs. Do they offer another dog to eat from their bowl as a sign of love and friendship? Do they go try to find them a treat? NO! When a buddy comes over they play, they wrestle, they physically groom, lick, smell and touch eachother. So you have to ask yourself the question: “Why when I want to bond with my dog do I use food when he or she doesn’t use food to express their emotions?” A quick experiment you can do to test this theory is to offer your dog a treat and watch what happens. They will most likely take it readily and move off to eat it, losing interest in you very quickly. Then, try interacting with your dog as a reward! Run, wrestle, throw their favorite toy and play tug-o-war. Is the dog engaged? Does the dog continue to come towards you instigating the interaction? This is the way to get your dog to bond with you and your family in a healthy manner that your dog understands in their own language!

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Now that you understand the difference between showing your dog affection in their language and giving them treats, apply that to training your dog. Get rid of the treats! There is a better way to train them! Train your dog the way they learn naturally through body language, not treat bribery. The results you get through treat training are not reliable as once they figure out they are not going to get the treat, you won’t get compliance. This is simply because your dogs’ actions are built around food, not mutual respect.

The training method used at Wonderdog Canine Education Classes and at Erin Mills Pet Hospital is based upon a mutual respect between you and your dog. It works by training the dog how they learn, not how we learn (respect for your dog) and your dog will understand what you want, and respond the way you want him/her to (respect for you). Through movement, and meeting ALL of your dogs’ needs (mental, social, and physical) you can get your dog to do ANYTHING for you. The bond this training method creates is pure, true and so deep it will amaze you. There are no gimmicks and no masking tools; just you, your dog and a desire to understand each other.

Please allow us to help you to keep your dog healthy and happy by teaching you how to create a deep and lasting bond between the two of you WITHOUT the need for treats! Call us or email us for more information today!

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