Puppies are essentially furry babies. If you want them to grow up into respectful and obedient adult dogs, you must invest time and effort into their training when they're young. However, a common mistake many first-time pet parents do is motivate their pets to obey by rewarding them with treats each time they follow a command, otherwise known as treat-training. Here's why this is a bad idea and what you should do instead.
Using Food as a Motivator
Dogs love treats, so it's understandable you would use treats to encourage your puppy to obey your instructions. After all, you're more likely to complete a task too if someone offered you your most favorite food to do it. The trouble is that this method depends too much on your dog's level of hunger or desire for the treat and whether you have any on hand to give him or her for doing as you say.
For instance, you offer your dog a treat in exchange for obeying your command to sit. However, your dog is far more interested in chasing after the cat and does that instead. Not only did the enticement fail, but your puppy likely learned that he or she can ignore your commands at no great loss or consequence.
However, even if you are able to adequately treat-train your dog, you'll start losing the animal's attention and obedience when you fail to give the puppy a treat for doing what you say. After all, why follow a command if you won't get the reward? You might get away with it once or twice, but your dog will start distrusting you if it happens more often and that's the last thing you want to have happened if your goal is to ensure your dog always behaves.
Use Respect as a Motivator
Instead of using treats, train your dog to respect you as the leader of the "pack." This type of training taps directly into your pet's natural instincts to follow the direction of an alpha dog. When you use respect as the impetus for your dog to obey, it won't matter if you have treats or not. Your dog will do as you say because he or she wants to follow your lead.
For instance, one way to get your dog to treat you as the pack leader is to make the animal work for his or her meal as the dog would in a regular pack. Take the dog for a walk or make the animal undergo training before letting him or her eat. It's a way to exert subtle control and ensure your dog recognizes your dominance.
For more tips on puppy training, contact a dog trainer in your area.