Sit, Stay, Snack: The importance of training your dog
Whether you just adopted a puppy or you’ve had your dog for years, it’s never too soon or too late to start training. Luckily, we have just the treats your pup will do a trick for! We’ve partnered with our friends (and training extraordinaires!) Gentle Beast to walk you through best practices and tips and tricks to get the most out of training your dog.
About Gentle Beast
Founded on the principle that “every dog deserves the chance to discover how good they can be,” Gentle Beast is a new app that connects pet parents with real dog training experts and provides holistic, science-backed resources on training, caring for, and engaging with their new pack members. We offer a personalized experience for every user, allowing dog owners to build a customized training plan tailored to meet their needs and their dog’s needs.
That’s what lies at the core of our philosophy: that dog training isn’t about high five and sit (although we can definitely help with that). After decades of old-school training methods revolving around teaching your dog to speak human, Gentle Beast flips the script and teaches you how to speak dog.
Why Train Your Dog?
Let’s face the facts: our world and society are not built for dogs. And, once upon a time, when your dog’s world ended at the fence line, they could navigate their territory easily. But as their role in our lives changed, so did our expectations: Now, we ask that our dogs accompany us in public, roam off-leash and return on command, lie at our feet in breweries, and socialize with strangers - both dog and human - daily.
And while not every dog will want or be able to do all of the above, training is the best way to equip them with the tools they need to navigate a human-centric world with success. Training grants them access to the world, and the better trained they are, the more access they have.
While there are endless reasons to train your dog, a few rise to the top as particularly useful in our minds:
- Training resolves problem behaviors. Nipping, jumping, barking, lunging, and pulling are all normal doggy behaviors, but they can be hard to live with and sometimes dangerous. Training helps make your life easier, and sets your dog up for success while minimizing their danger to others.
- Training builds confidence. As your dog learns new skills, their confidence grows, which is extremely valuable for anxious or timid dogs. And this goes for you too: the more history you and your dog have of working in a team, the more confident you become in your dog’s ability to listen and respond.
- Training strengthens you and your dog’s bond. Dogs are the ultimate team player. Your dog wants to work with you, not against you, but parent and pet don’t always naturally speak the same language. Training not only enables them to work with you, but establishes trust and enhances your communication overall.
- Training fulfills your dog’s natural instincts. Dogs are eager students and they’re constantly teaching themselves new things. Training your dog allows them to channel that energy in a direction that works for everyone in the household.
- Training enhances your understanding of your dog. Dog training is a lifelong process, not something restricted to puppyhood. When you fully commit to training your dog, it becomes impossible to ignore that they are dynamic, evolving creatures who require constant communication, adjustment, and love.
Have you ever heard the adage “A tired dog is a good dog”?
It’s true, of course, but there’s more than one way to tire your dog out. Sniffing, exploring, and training all provide ways to provide mental enrichment for your dog and let them use their brains, not just their bodies!
Using Treats to Train Your Dog
Food is everything to a dog. Without you, your dog would spend most of their daily energy looking for food. As one of [Nature’s scavengers] your dog is pre-conditioned to use their brains in the pursuit of food.
While there’s an abundance of pet treats in the market, it’s important to look for ones that are healthy, nutritious AND delicious. When it comes to training your pup; the tastier the treat, the easier it is! Polkadog offers a wide range of thoughtfully-sourced training treats including high value single ingredient treats, crunchy bits, and soft & chewy bits to get your pet to be the best they can be. Our premium ingredients are sourced from our community of fishers and farmers, and our treats are made fresh daily at our Boston Fish Pier kitchen.
Single Ingredient Treats: Our single ingredient treats have a variety of health benefits, and dogs LOVE them! Polkadog Cod Skins are hypoallergenic, lean in protein, low in calories and fat content, and great for building muscle. Not only are these treats irresistible to dogs, they are a safe choice for pups with sensitive stomachs. Simply break the Cod Skin into small pieces and they become the ideal, high value training treat.
Crunchy Treats: A crunchy training treat is not only exciting to dogs, it also provides a satisfying texture to keep your dog engaged. Treats with a crunch tend to keep your pup eager and engaged. Not only do our training bits come in a variety of fun flavors (Salmon Says, Chicken Littles, Green Monstah, and Lucky Duck to name a few), they have a ton of health benefits for your pet. All of our training bits are four ingredients or less with no additives or preservatives ever, and are a lower calorie option making them a treat you can feel good about training your pup with, over and over again!
Soft & Chewy Treats: Polkadog soft & chewy treats are the ideal training treat for puppies and older dogs. Peanut Butter Wonder Nuggets, our favorite super-powered training treat, are made using Teddie peanut butter, making them irresistible for your peanut butter lovin’ pup! All of Polkadog’s soft & chewy treats are limited-ingredient with no additives or preservatives, low in calories, made in small batches, and are quick and easy to swallow, making them the perfect training treat.
Think of food as currency. Once your dog learns that certain behaviors result in higher payouts, they’re more likely to repeat those behaviors. Over time, this forms habits and those behaviors come naturally to your dog.
The other major advantage of using treats to train your dog? Timing! It’s way easier to get the hang of delivering treats rapidly and at the correct time, which makes training clearer and easier for your dog to understand. The more they understand, the faster they learn.
Training Tips & Tricks
So you’ve committed to using treats to train your dog (and maybe snagged a few of Polkadog’s offerings) and you’re trying to figure out the best way of using them. Here are a couple things to keep in mind:
- Mix it up. Your dog most likely has a preference between the treats. In dog training, we call this value. Kibble is usually low-value, with treats and human food being medium- and high-value. Use an assortment of treats when training. Easy stuff gets low-value rewards, hard stuff gets big payouts.
- Keep training sessions short. Food—especially food they love—helps your dog sustain interest and focus, but keeping sessions short and sweet helps prevent boredom and burnout. End on a positive note and with something tasty!
- Break up treats. Use tiny treats to prevent your dog from getting full. If your treats are on the larger side, cut them up and dole them out in small amounts. Your dog thinks simply: one treat is one treat, no matter the size.
- Avoid bribing your dog. It’s okay to lure your dog, especially in the early stages of a new cue, but fade it out once your dog gets the hang of it. If your dog doesn’t know what you want and you use food to show them: that’s luring. If your dog does not want to do something and you use food to change their mind: that’s bribery.
Training is a daily activity, but it doesn’t need to be hard or time-intensive. Get in the habit of carrying a small pouch or stashing some treats around the house so you can instantly reward your puppy for doing something you want. Lying down on their bed, choosing to chew on their toy (not the furniture), or ignoring the sound of another dog barking outside? Thank you, here’s your reward!
Using Enrichment Toys to Train Your Dog
Of course, you won’t always have the time to entertain them - or activate their scavenger drive through training - constantly, so that’s where enrichment toys come in: Puzzle toys and feeders turn their meals into fun activities that tire their brain out, promote relaxation, and relieve boredom. As a result, they’re less likely to bark, chew on inappropriate objects, or generally seek attention, making them happier and your life a little easier.
Domesticated dogs display contrafreeloading behavior. Put more simply, they prefer to work for their food, not get it for free. In dog training, we describe this as “food motivation,” with allowances for variation in individual temperament.
In short, when your dog works for food, they experience two separate motivations:
- Extrinsic motivation. The food is inherently rewarding because it tastes good.
- Intrinsic motivation. Working for food gave them a sense of achievement or accomplishment, which makes them feel good.
Puzzle feeders are an easy, hands off way to satisfy your dog’s mental enrichment needs. Pair them with some tasty Polkadog treats and they’re sure to stay busy.
Whether you use an enrichment toy, work on new tricks, or reward your dog for exhibiting good behavior, it’s important to train your dog daily. Without practice, they forget all of their and your hard work; also without practice, you can quickly lose sight of their improvements, challenges, and needs. For training inspiration or ideas, head to Gentle Beast’s blog or social media to get training today!