Dear Miss Behavin’:
I’m working on my dog’s reactivity on walks and someone mentioned using “high value treats.” What are they and how can I utilize them?
Let’s say you have a bad habit of rushing out the door in the mornings. You find yourself flustered and most days you forget something by the time you get to work. Are you more inclined to wake up early for a $1 bill or a $100 bill?
High value treats are just that for your dog. They are lucrative and only make an appearance when needed. If your dog is reactive on walks, you might use stinky (i.e. yummy) treats to catch his attention and keep him focused on you as the dog across the street passes.
What are these treats you ask? They’re small and pack a punch. A small dog only needs a pea sized treat while a Great Dane or Mastiff might need a grape-sized treat. Cheese, low sodium hot dog, cooked chicken, dog food rolls such as Natural Balance, or even your dog’s favorite treat from the pet store are all great options depending on your dog’s preference and health.
It’s always a good idea to have both low value and high value treats available when training. A low value treat such as a dry cookie or kibble can be used as a reward for things your dog already knows (sit or shake). The high value treats are for learning new things, distracting situations or challenging tasks.
Many people wonder if they’ll have to use treats forever. For some dogs, that might be the case. For most, treats are meant as a training tool and should be weaned off gradually if your dog is learning while you use them. Verbal praise and toys can be used as alternative reward options as your dog’s behavior improves.