People food to dogs? Not a problem

A few days ago I had a first appointment with a new Beagle puppy and his family. For the first time ever, I saw a Beagle that did not really like treats and he wasn’t too enthralled with his food. Normally Beagles are indiscriminate eaters and can eat all day long if given the chance.

They are often used by dog food companies to test new dog foods because of their small size and natural tendency to eat a lot.

My clients were most concerned about their puppy’s tendency to bark in the crate, so that is what we started talking about. I was explaining how to get their puppy accustomed to the crate and how to reward him when he was quiet. The problem was, he wasn’t taking treats that we were giving him.

You can absolutely train a dog without using treats in training, but if used correctly, treats can often speed up the training process. If the puppy likes the treat being used, it can increase his motivation to perform the behavior that resulted in receiving the treat.

When crate training, it is imperative that the puppy learns that the only way to get rewarded is to be quiet. A reward could be talking to him, petting him, giving him a toy, giving him a treat or letting him out of the crate. Treats are just one of the many possibilities that can be used to to reward behavior.

However, using treats can speed up the training process because you can do many repetitions in a short amount of time and teach the puppy what is the correct behavior. If you use another reward such as petting or letting him out of the crate, he might not like those rewards as much and the process of giving those rewards can take longer and slow down the process. Also, if a puppy doesn’t take a treat that he normally LOVES, than you know that he is either really distracted, full, or under duress or scared.

I explained this to my clients and asked them if they had anything else that we can try to give as treats such as cheese, hot dogs or lunch meat. They said that they don’t want to give him “people food”. I explained to them my philosophy on the difference between “dog food” and “people food”.

I do not think there is a difference between the two. Whether you buy chicken treats from the pet food store or give your dog a piece of roasted chicken, the ingredient is still chicken. When I talk about treats, I always talk about high quality food. I do not give my dogs “junk food” treats with sugar, food coloring, by-products or other unnecessary ingredients. I use protein-based treats such as chicken or lamb or cheese.

It is always important that dogs receive their treats or food when acting appropriately. I do not think it is appropriate that dogs ever grab food off of counter tops of tables whether their target is dog food or food from the grocery store. I am not implying that dogs can decide which food they get and when, but when you decide to feed your dog you can use a variety of food options that agree with their systems and not cause behavior problems in the process.

I also feed my dogs a raw diet and also provide other healthy food items and leftovers. I give them bananas, mango, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes, cheese, pasta and other goodies that I have left over.

Of course not every dog reacts well to all kinds of protein sources and not every dog can tolerate dairy and other ingredients. So my recommendation is to give one kind of treat in really small quantities to see if your dog can digest it properly before adding other items.

In our session, my client got a piece of cheese from the fridge and we continued the crate training lesson. Their puppy was thrilled with this new option and my clents quickly saw the process for efficiently teaching their puppy to be quiet in the crate.

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