Food Treats for Training

Reward your GSD for Good Behaviour

Dog training treats can be very useful to teach your GSD a variety of commands and tricks, or even just to teach him/her to calm down for a little while. Dog training treats differ from regular treats for numerous reasons.

Food used for dog training must be small, as you will need to use a lot of them. They need to be scrumptious and varied, so your GSD goes crazy about them and are enthusiastic to join in. Many voice concerns that if treats are used for training, that your GSD respond to you when you have treats. This is a fallacy.

It will take time but worth the effort in order to have a well-behaved GSD that will eventually respond to you without treats. Click here for more information on rewards without food.

Everyday Dog Training Treats

Treats you buy at the supermarket are generally TOO big to use for training and obedience purposes. When training your GSD a new command/behaviour, frequent rewarding is required. So, if you use a whole milk bone, for example, he/she will get full very quickly, and may even gain weight.

You’re GSD couldn’t care less about the size of the treat; he/she will be just as content with whole milk bone as with a crumb of it! Use treats approximately the size of a pea and no bigger. If you’re GSD requires a BIG food reward for a job done exceptionally well, give him/her 10 little treats in a row.

Determine what your GSD’s favourite treat is:

  1. Have a variety of different treats in plastic bags (at least 5 different ones).
  2. Create a chart with the treats used, monitor and record of your GSD’s reaction to each.
  3. Show him/her two of the treats BUT don’t let him/her eat them, just sniff them. Then place them on the floor and see which one he/she picks first. Document on your chart and repeat 2 more times with the same treats to confirm that the reaction is the same each time, making sure to alternate placement sides to gain a definitive answer.
  4. Attempt this multiple times using different combinations to ascertain your GSD’s preference.

In an ideal world, you should start your training knowing which treats are least favourable to your GSD’s and his/her ultimate favourite.

~~ TIP ~~

For everyday training use least favourable treats, saving his/her favourites for special occasions.

An example: use his/her favourable treat when teaching something difficult such as recall; to come when called; especially when there are lots of distractions around such as other dogs playing.

When you want to tell your dog, he did something EXTREMELY good use a Jackot!

  • For a Jackpot give your GSD many (small) treat pieces in a row. By delivering treats this way he/she will soon learn, a job well done! It is always good to end a training session in a positive way with a game or a nice juicy bone.
  • A Jackpot will encourage your GSD to choose to repeat the command/behaviour that he/she did that rewarded so well! Even if it was the last thing he/she did in the training session, he/she will remember it the next time.
  • Jackpot should ONLY be used to mark really good responses, using them too often will result in them losing their value.

How to Use Treats for Obedience

ALWAYS start with a hungry GSD

You need a motivated and eager to learn GSD to start obedience training.

If you try to train your GSD after breakfast, he/she will not be as driven to work for treats. Training sessions should be done between feeding times, ensuring your GSD will be eager to learn and earn food rewards.

At first, you must reward 100% of good responses

When you start training your GSD a NEW command/behaviour, you should always reward for every single good response. He/she needs to gain clear understanding as to why he/she is being rewarded and continually reward that command/behaviour when done correctly. You need to reward your GSD 100% of the time every time you add something new to his/her training regime. Examples of this are:

  • When you start a new command/behaviour
  • When you ask your dog to do that command/behaviour in a new place
  • When you ask him/her to do that command/behaviour with distractions
  • When you ask him/her to do that behaviour with distance
  • When you teach him to stay in that particular position

~~ The Key is Timing ~~

The time at which you give your GSD their training treat is extremely important.

If you want to reward your GSD for sitting, but by the time you give him/her the treat he/she is already standing, the message your sending is that when standing he/she gets a treat.

Using a Marker Word or a Clicker will increase and enhance your timing considerably.

Reducing Dog Treats

Once your GSD has learned the command/behaviour, it is time to reduce the treats once your GSD responds correctly 8 out 10 times, consider that command/behaviour as learned.

when he is at that stage you can start giving rewards less and less.

To maintain motivation cut down the dog training treats slowly. Try RANDOMLY giving him/her only treats only 90% of the time reducing slowly to 50%, do not go below 50% whilst still new to encourage continued good responses and to keep your GSD eager and unable to predict when a treat will be forthcoming. This is how ‘pokie’ machines work (and why some people get addicted to them). you know that sometimes you will win, so you keep trying, even if most of the time you don’t win a thing.

ALWAYS choose the best response to reward

Once reaching the stage where you only rewarding some correct responses from your GSD, ensure that you select the best response to give a treat. By doing this, you will maintain the eager participation of your GSD, whilst encouraging him/her respond better and quicker each time!

Examples of “best responses” are:

  • Your GSD responds to your command in less than 2 seconds
  • Your GSD does the command/behaviour particularly well (posture)
  • Your GSD immediately responds and has a great posture
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