Break apart treats for longer training sessions

A dog sits on cue. Do you give them a half a treat, one treat or two treats?

I would probably give one quarter to one eighth of a treat. That isn’t just because I am particularly frugal. There are a lot of variables like breed and age of the dog and the size and quality of the treats to consider. Remember treats do not have to be large to have a reward value.

Usually when I train I am not just training the sit behavior. I want to cover a lot. If the animal fills up after one treat, I am going to lose their motivation. If I am training a complex behavior and it takes them a minute to chew on a reward they may forget the previous steps.

Treats are obviously great to give and receive.

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“We all love our animals and buying or making quality healthy treats is a great way to let them feel loved,” explained Maria Steffen, owner of Wuf Love Cookies, a Tonawanda NY dog treat company.

For ten years, Steffen has been making dog treats, which are available at a half dozen farmer markets in the region. Crunchy biscuit treats are available in peanut butter, carob and cheese flavors. Soft liver bites, birthday cakes and customized bones with your pet’s name on them are also popular. Steffen’s treats only contain five ingredients per “crunchy” recipe to keep potential allergens to a minimum. The treats contain no salt, sugar, preservatives, egg or soy.

To guarantee your pooch doesn’t acquire a pouch, Steffen is always happy to give customers advice and serving suggestions based on specific needs.

“If your dog has a diet restriction due to illness or weight, then you have to use common sense and scale back what you give,” she said.

Janelle Harris says around five treats a day to keep a dog’s weight at a healthy level is typical. Harris is a co-owner of K9 Krunchers, a Niagara Falls-based dog treat company. In addition to assorted flavored mini cut outs, which are great for training, Harris and co-owner Denise Tedesco offer “hamburgers,” “French fries,” big boy braids, peanut butter or banana biscuits and meaty beefy mutt balls. K9 Krunchers is available at the North Tonawanda Farmers Market and at local animal socials. There are tons of other local pet treats companies throughout the US and globally.
Are you a locavore? Should your pets be too?

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While a canine cake or mutt ball are fantastic treats to give your pet on special occasions, these large payoffs aren’t ideal for training daily behaviors. Repetition builds behavior far better than a large deposit of treats. Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. The more practice (repetition) you do with your pet the more stable that behavior will become.
Stretching out your treats is easy and it’s a great way to reduce your animal’s waistline and pocketbook expenses. Breaking the treats in smaller parts is the most common way. If five treats is your limit for the day, you could reward your pet five times for sitting on cue or you could break those treats up. If you break them in quarters you could reward your pet for being quiet as the mailman walks by, staying on the floor instead of jumping on the couch, going the bathroom outdoors, retrieving a toy, sitting on cue five times and eleven other behaviors you want to see increase.

Presentation is another way to stretch the use of treats. By handing a portion of their daily diet by hand, some animals interpret that behavior to mean treat time. One of my cats will readily accept food this way, making him easy to train. Ferrets can be trained easily by mixing their pellet food with warm water. This paste can be delivered through a syringe. When they do something you like, you could let them lap up a little bit of the blend as you squeeze it out. My birds will willingly eat their normal diet or treats after I have rolled them into a ball of paper. Other animals may do this with a kong or other feeder device. An added benefit with the feeder device is the calories they burn accessing the treat. Check out more training tips at Critter Companions

This fall let’s focus on healthier waistlines and behaviors. It can all start with a trip to the farmers market.

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