Over the years I have a number of brilliant clients who have done fantastically with most of their training but struggled with loose leash walking. Their dogs were still pulling when out on a walk. After a little powwow, I would discover that they weren’t taking treats with them on a walk. What?!? Well, we know where the problem is.
Some people said that they never saw a walk as training and we only use treats when we train. Others have said it is to complicated to carry treats. A good treat pouch alleviates the last problem, but the first objection needs to be addressed – every time, every time, e-v-e-r-y-t-i-m-e, you are interacting with your dog you are training. While some training may occur in formal set ups – dedicating a block of time to repeating and reinforcing an action. The vast majority of your dog’s training happens through your day to day interactions – including on your walk.
So I wanted to give you 3 very good reasons you should be taking treats (really, really good treats) on your walk.
- Tells your dog what you want them to do.
The point of training with positive reinforcement is that we are reinforcing behaviours that we want to see. The treat isn’t about feeling good, it is information. Dog looks at you – “Yes” that is a treat. Dog is by your side – “Yes” that is a treat. Coming away from exciting things (like blades of grass, shrubs and other dogs) “Yes” you betcha that is a treat. How could I tell the dog that they are doing exactly what I want them to do, without providing that clear information? Why wouldn’t I pay them for a job well done?
- Gets their attention on you
What is your perceived value on a walk? There is a lot to compete with in the environment when you are on a walk – things to sniff, stuff to watch, more things to sniff. It is normal for your dog to only focus on one thing at a time, if he is busy sniffing, then he is busy not listening to you. Carrying food increases your value – you become a better option to pay attention too. I know this will make some people unhappy to hear, “but my dog should do it because he respects me”, don’t take it personally – you are fighting instinct, I just want your dog to turn at look at you on occasion while you are walking, and for you to say – “good job for noticing that I am alive, have a treat”
- Let’s them know that scary things are actually ok
Here is the big thing this is the most important reason to carry treats with you on a walk. Walking around your neighbourhood can be a gauntlet of over aroused barking dogs, whose only entertainment in their entire life is waiting for the next dog to walk past their front yard. This can lead to your dog, becoming scared, barking back, becoming reactive and more. The simple act of taking treats with you on a walk means that you can let your dog know that “Barkers make Treats happen” if a dog bark and your dog gets a treat – then a magical process is happening in their brain. An association is being made that good thing happen when a dog barks at you, stress can be minimised and your dog learns to ignore other dogs that are barking at them. This can also be applied when you pass other dogs – let them walk past and reward your dog for ignoring them. Now there are lots of little nuances to this process, distance, timing, stress levels all must be balanced to be successful. Older dogs with a pattern with reactivity will take longer to work with. This simple process, however, can change how your dog feels about going for a walk and make the whole situation more pleasant for both of you.
So do yourself a favour, grab your treat pouch, fill it with high-value goodies and then pop your leash on your dog to go out for your walk.