Using food rewards and training is
pretty universal.Most people just buy some dog treats and
then machine gun them down their dogs throat. But there is a strategy to using
food and I am going to show you how scaling will get you closer to behaviors that are prompt, precise and polite.
Now in dog training, working with food involves the fastest, easiest
and most effective strategies…if they are done right. Using food rewards is accepted now amongst many dog owners, trainers, and behaviorists alike.
It is easy to get stuck using treats as bribes or worse ramping
up treat value over time to keep interest. Reward scaling is used to
reward excellent effort. We use it to help a dog understand something new or
to overcome fears or dislike of something. For example, we may use a basic
reward for training a simple move but then kick it up if we are helping a dog
overcome reactivity. We may use a basic reward to teach sit or come but then give them better rewards for faster or more stylish responses.
For starters, we want to have at least three tiers of rewards to use: jackpots, treats, and kibble.
jackpots are any food item of ultra high value. This is the highest value tier and is only used occasionally. Dogs typically take longer to chew and swallow these so save them for the best effort and for reaching a new goal. The jackpot of jackpots is called the ten-thousand-dollar jackpot and it is something that they only get on rare occasions.
Treats are the middle tier and while they are not as enticing as jackpots they are still good.This is the group of food rewards you normally think of when you
think dog training treat: small, smelly, and a good brand are the best choices.
The bottom tier is kibble – good old dry dog food. This should be used as an
effective training reward. Initially, you want to empower kibble to be a reward in the first place.
So for puppies up to 18 weeks, you should be exclusively either hand feeding or
feeding from chew toys. And for adolescent and adult dogs you should be using
regular feeding times and picking up what is left after 15 to 20 minutes. Do
not put food down all day.Listen: mealtime is a trainable activity just like any other.
Now, how do we deploy the different reward levels? Start with kibble for basic
behaviors.This will make up the majority of the work you do with your dog. Use a treat or a jackpot for difficult things and for stellar performance.
Teaching a dog to make eye contact is useful with a variety of applications. It is a good habit to encourage especially in puppies who often have the tendency to be rambunctious, particularly in the presence of delicious food/treats.