We all know ‘puppy eyes’ are hard to resist, but when it comes to treats for your puppy, it’s important to make healthy choices. Here are some tips on choosing puppy-safe treats and using them effectively in training.

puppy treats

Using treats to reward desirable behaviour

Positive reinforcement training is all about rewarding behaviour we like so that we see that behaviour more often. Treats make an effective reward for training because puppies and dogs love food, and small training treats are easy for us to handle. When teaching basic cues to your puppy, feeding a treat the moment they perform the cue helps the pup to learn exactly what behaviour you are asking for, and to repeat it more readily in future. You can also use treat rewards when you see your puppy offering a nice behaviour, such as lying on their bed.

Treating when the time is right

To use treats effectively in training, you will need to practice feeding your puppy at the right time. Remember, your pup sees the treat as a reward for the behaviour they were performing when they received the treat. So, if you ask your puppy to sit, make sure you feed the treat as soon as their bottom touches the floor, so they learn that this is the behaviour called ‘sit’.

Puppies can become overexcited when treats are on offer, and you might see your pup jumping up or snatching for treats. Timing is especially important here, because we want to reward the puppy for calm behaviour, rather than jumping. Stand and wait calmly for your puppy to put their four paws on the floor before you acknowledge them and continue training. A treat given when pup’s four paws are firmly on the floor will encourage your pup to maintain this relaxed behaviour more often.

Finding the best treat for your puppy

Just as we humans have to be wary of the treats we choose, you must consider your puppy’s health when buying treats. There are lots of healthy treats on the market, so check out the back of the packet and ask your vet’s advice about the best choices for your dogs. Always look for puppy treats that contain real ingredients like meat, chicken and fish, and avoid options that are high in sugar, preservatives and saturated fats. Treats with dental benefits and lots of vitamins and nutrients are a great way to keep them healthy.

Treating in moderation

At this early stage, you’ll be training your puppy on a daily basis and of course be tempted to treat them all the time. Especially when they’re small, you need to be sure that you don’t overfeed them or upset their sensitive stomachs. Ration the treats you plan to use when you’re training them and be sure that it’s not too much when combined with their meals. Carrying too much weight can lead to serious health problems for dogs, so be sure you understand how much your pet should weigh. Treats for training should be small, about the size of a corn kernel each. Your pup should be able to eat the treat reward pretty quickly so they can be ready for the next training cue.

You can also use some of your pup’s daily diet (kibble) to reward them in training and help keep treat quantities in moderation. In a very distracting environment, a smellier or more novel treat will be more enticing for your pup. Consider mixing a couple of higher value training treats with a small amount of kibble to make the whole lot smell extra tasty!

Human treats aren’t puppy treats

The treats we love can have a negative impact on our puppy’s health. Their metabolism is very different to ours, so it’s important to remember that they will react differently to human food. Chocolate is toxic to dogs and a small piece of one of the many high-fat, high-salt or high-sugar foods we eat can be harmful to our pets. It’s best to keep these all to yourself and have your puppy stick to treats that are made for them.

If your pup is fully vaccinated, you can bring them to Petbarn on a leash and have them sniff out their favourite puppy treats!

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