A leading pet behaviourist has shared her tips for using treats effectively with dogs of all ages.
East London-based trainer Louise Glazebrook, from BBC2’s 12 Puppies and Us series, urged owners to introduce treat training regimes immediately, regardless of whether they have a puppy or not.
Louise’s comments follow recent research by premium natural pet food company Lily’s Kitchen, which revealed that canines get an average of 27 treats per day – though many of these are given out of “guilt” and are not used to reinforce good behaviour.
According to the behaviourist, these treats should be being used to motivate and train your pup, even if they’re a senior dog.
She said: “Contrary to belief, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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“All dogs from puppies through to senior dogs require daily play, games, interaction, walks and training – my rescue dog is approximately eight years old and I still use treats.
“Whether you are using them to stuff a treat-dispensing toy, play find it or reward recall cues, it is crucial to have a reward system in place.
“You still get paid for going to work, so should your dog. Please don’t stop reinforcing the things they enjoy or are learning.”
Louise recommended incorporating treat training “little and often” to make it “do-able” for you and “fun” for your pup.
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She added: “The best thing to remember is that normal life offers you the best opportunities to reinforce and play.
“So while you stand waiting for the kettle to boil, play a find it game; when you are waiting to get the kid’s coats on, ask your dog to wait.”
The dog trainer also advised owners to scrap habits that were detrimental to pups, including feeding them out of “guilt” and allowing “unhealthy” or even “toxic” treats such as bacon and chocolate.
According to Lily’s Kitchen, six in 10 owners admitted to giving their pup a treat when they felt guilty about not being a good ‘pet parent’.
An additional 16 per cent confessed to giving in when their pet begs for food, while three out of 10 said they treat their pup if they’ve left them alone too long.
Louise said: “I think it is crucial to make sure we don’t confuse our own guilt with overfeeding our dogs.
“Your dog’s biggest desire is to have your time and energy put into them. If you are going to use treats, use them in a game format and get your dog using their brain.
“Not only will they love you for it, but you will need to use far less than just hand feeding them treats direct from the packet.”
Louise also encouraged owners to find out the treats that most motivate their pup and select a type based on how hard what you are trying to reinforce or teach is.