Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away, many pet owners didn’t like to use treats when training their dogs. They thought using treats was the same as bribery, and that dogs would be far less obedient unless treats were continually used. Today, dog trainers routinely suggest treats as a positive way to help motivate dogs to learn and listen. As retailers, you can help boost your treat sales by knowing not only what constitutes a good training treat but how customers can safely use them to great effect with their dogs.
A Good Training Treat Is…
• Something a dog likes. This seems obvious, but if a dog doesn’t find a treat palatable, she will be far less motivated to work for it. Some dogs prefer soft treats, such as Bil-Jac Grain Free Soft Dog Training Treats; others prefer harder ones, such as Stewart Pro Treats or Cloudstar Crunchy Tricky Trainers. Since soft treats could become messy when kept in a pocket, recommending a treat pouch is a great way to add on to the sale.
• Small enough to be consumed in one or two bites. Training usually involves numerous repetitions in order for a dog to master a concept, which equates to multiple treats during a training session. Small, bite-sized treats are not as likely to cause weight-gain challenges and are less distracting when a dog eats them. Ideally, a dog gets a taste of something fabulous, then it is gone and she is motivated for more. A dog who takes three minutes (or more) to chew and swallow a treat will have completely lost focus on whatever it was her owner was trying to teach her.
• Easily broken into bite-sized pieces if needed. Whether hard or soft treats are used, owners should be able to break them cleanly into smaller pieces if warranted, such as when training very small dogs or limited the amount of calories consumed during a session. Owners could even use their dogs’ favorite biscuits and jerky if they can easily reduce them in size.
• Easily hidden to prevent visual dependency. If dogs can’t see the treats, they won’t know if their owners have one or not. This keeps the dogs guessing and more motivated. Owners can opt not to use a treat without decreasing their dog’s responses.
• Not smelly to limit dogs’ awareness. Owners should also avoid treats that enable their dogs to know when they are hiding one. If the treat in question is so odorous dogs will be able tell when their owners are holding them, how will they get a response when they aren’t? This is why you should always recommend treats that are as odorless as possible. Charlee Bear Liver Flavor Dog Treats are a fantastic example; they are small, easily concealed, practically odorless and palatable.
• Will not stain apparel. Since many owners put a few treats in their pockets when training their dogs, a good training treat should not stain clothing. Again, recommending a treat pouch enables owners to avoid staining and creates an add-on sale.
How Trainers Use Treats
Consistent positive reinforcement of a behavior strengthens that behavior. When trainers first start teaching a behavior, they will often reward an appropriate response with food 100 percent of the time. They will repeat the rewards until a dog shows a clear, consistent understanding and response, at which time they will start to wean a dog off them.
Although every dog learns at a different pace, treats are an effective tool to use when training dogs. Retailers who know how to use them can effectively promote the right types to their customers.