Dear Miss Behavin’:
I’m working on my dog’s manners on walks and someone mentioned using “high value treats.” What are they and how do I use them?
Say you have a bad habit of rushing out the door in the mornings. You’re always flustered and most days you forget something. Are you more likely to get up earlier for a $1 bill or a $50 bill?
High value treats are, in essence, just that for your dog – a lucrative training tool. If your dog is reactive on walks, you might use high value treats to catch his attention and keep him focused on you as the dog across the street passes. If you’re teaching a difficult trick, a high value treat might help lure your dog into the right position or movement.
These treats shouldn’t be filling, so small pieces are ideal. A small breed 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 his preferences and health. There’s nothing wrong with a taste-test to figure out what he likes best.
We recommending having 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 (like a sit or shake) whereas high value treats are for learning new things, challenging situations, or difficult tasks.
Some dog owners worry that they’ll have to use treats forever and for a handful of dogs, that might be the case. For others, treats are meant to be used as a training tool and can be weaned off as your dog becomes consistent with wanted behaviors. In lieu of treats, verbal or social praise and toys can be equally rewarding for your dog.