Should I Train My Dog With Treats

The Story of the Squirrel VS. Treat – and The Winner Is….

Imagine you and your dog, Spot, walking through a busy park. There are a lot of people walking their dogs, kids playing frisbee, bicyclists riding by, squirrels running from tree to tree … and you have trained Spot how to sit and walk next to you with treats and pure positive training. Does Spot choose a treat or that squirrel that just ran by you?

I think we would all like to say, our dog will choose to pay attention to us, but the fact is, that treat, no matter how high-value it is, will lose that battle. So squirrel vs. treat, the squirrel is the winner. Another dog vs. treat, the other dog is the winner. The UPS man vs. treat, the UPS man wins. You get the idea, right? Treat training is great when there are NO distractions around you.

The goal is to train your dog so he WANTS to listen to you over ANY other distraction, whether it be another dog, a squirrel or a kid running by. And let me tell you, this is not an easy task!

For me, the goal of training my dog is to teach him to pay attention and listen to me. To COME when asked, NOT because I have a treat, but to RESPECT me as his pack leader.

Should I train my dog using treats?
4 Great Opportunities To Use Treats In Training:

  1. Potty training a puppy or dog can be easy when using treats. Take him outside, and immediately after he finishes peeing or pooping, give him a treat and say “good boy”. Repeat this every time he goes potty outside. Don’t be shy about getting excited about your puppy going potty outside. It should take less than a week depending on the age of your puppy. Puppies bladders aren’t mature enough to hold it very long, so take him outside often.
  2. Treats are a great way to train young puppies (6 months and younger) basic commands. You can use treats to teach him to SIT, DOWN, COME, and do fun tricks such as PAW.
  3. Agility and tricks are great opportunities to use treats. These are fun activities for the dog and treats are a fun way to lure him to do what you are asking him to do.
  4. Crate training can be frustrating, but giving your dog an incentive to go into his crate with treats is a great tool. Simply toss a few treats into the crate and let your dog go into the crate on his own. Do not push or force him into his crate.

If Treats Won’t Work With My Dog Around Distractions, What Can I Do?

I think a lot of people that get a dog have an idea of how they want that dog to behave. TV shows and movies put this picture perfect dog in our head, that runs around off-leash, comes when called, and never gets into mischief! But the fact is those TV dogs have been trained by trainers for many many hours to get that awesome behavior. Dogs aren’t born to understand people, it’s our job to train the dog to understand. So please don’t expect to adopt a dog, walk through your front door and be perfect. We as dog owners have the responsibility to train our dogs to understand right from wrong, what SIT, DOWN and COME mean.

There are two options when it comes to training your dog:

1. Pure Positive Training (AKA treat training WITHOUT consequences)

2. Balanced Training (AKA positive training WITH consequences)

With Pure Positive Dog Training, you will teach your dog basic commands using treats to lure the behavior. There is no correction if the dog does not perform the command. A good example would be if you ask your daughter to set the table for dinner and tell her she can have a piece of candy if she does. But she takes the candy, then ignores you and goes off to play instead. You do nothing, let her go play and you set the table yourself.

I signed up for a local pure positive basic obedience dog training class last January with our newly adopted Ginger. I was so disappointed in this obedience training class after the first day! It is important to note, my husband and I have been dog owners together for over 25 years… have trained several dogs using training methods WITHOUT treats. But I really wanted a structured program to attend and I couldn’t find a program that didn’t use treats, so I thought we’d give this class a try.

What did I learn? Pay $125, feed my dog treats (an entire baggy full every class) and after 6 weeks my dog knows SIT and DOWN… to COME to me only when I have a high-valued treat in my hand. Really? I could have done this at home in 3 days watching YouTube videos!

[Related: Learn How to Find the Perfect Dog Trainer and more about the different types of dog trainers.]

What’s wrong with 100% Positive Training Techniques aka Treat Training?

  1. Your dog will only listen to you when you have a treat and there are no distractions.
  2. You won’t always have a handful of high-value treats with you 24/7.
  3. Your dog does not learn that you are his pack leader, he just learns that you have yummy treats in your pocket anytime he comes to you.
  4. That squirrel, cat, mailman, kid, other dog is more exciting than that treat in your hand, no matter if it’s a juicy steak!

The benefits of using balanced dog training.

Balanced Dog Training is when we teach the dog basic commands by placing them in the correct position with your hand or leash and collar. Treats can be used in the beginning of training, especially for puppies, but phased out quickly and not used all of the time. Once the dog understands the command and chooses not to perform the command, he is corrected, sometimes with a quick jerk of the collar or if using an e-collar, it would be a small vibration. It’s important to note that corrections are done only after he knows the command and chooses not to perform when asked.

So using the example above, when your daughter decides not to set the table, you go to her and let her know if she doesn’t set the table as asked, she will lose her computer privileges for the day. She has the choice to do what you asked, or be disciplined for not obeying you.

  • Your dog will listen to you regardless of the distraction
  • You don’t need to carry treats around with you 24/7 for the life of your dog
  • Your dog will lead a happy life knowing he has a pack leader to take care of him

I believe that positive/treat training has become today’s popular method only because people are afraid to discipline their dogs! And somehow correcting your dog has been twisted into animal cruelty. The same scenario with people not disciplining their kids these days, and look where that has gotten our society today.

Please ask yourself, is it more cruel to:

A) Never discipline your dog and allow him to misbehave and do as he pleases whenever he wants, pull on the leash whenever he sees a dog, bark at strangers, etc.


B) Train your dog and correct your dog’s bad behavior one time with a good correction so he learns right from wrong the first time?

Choosing the right training method is very important to you and your dog. You as the owner need to be comfortable with your choice, but keep in mind what you expect from your dog.

Using treats can be fun for you and your dog,
but remember that we
all need discipline in our lives to be balanced.

P.S. I would love to hear all about how you use treats with your dog! Comment below to tell our Rescue Dogs 101 community all about it, then go take your dog for a walk!





Should I Train My Dog With Treats? Does your dog listen to you around distractions? Is it okay to use treats when training your dog? The story of the Squirrel vs. Treat …

About the Author Debi@RescueDogs101

Debi McKee is a dog blogger, foster home, and all-in-all dog fanatic. Debi’s mission is to guide you through every step of your dog journey, from adopting the perfect dog for you and your family, to training your dog and keeping your dog happy and healthy. Sign up for her free resource library of must-have resources, containing valuable downloads to help you in your dog journey.

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