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Whilst it’s not necessary to always and continually reward your dog using food there are many other things that your dog will find rewarding, such as play, as they grow into adolescence and adulthood in the early days of puppy hood and the early sessions of training a new behaviour for all dogs, however, food (combined with praise) is the most effective and convenient resource to use.
Levels of reward
There are three levels of food rewards that we use in training, depending on what you are asking of your dog and where you are asking it. I can ask my dog to do pretty much anything in the house (boring) for a piece of kibble but when out and about that same piece of kibble would be ignored; I must up the ante. For a discussion on using rewards at all please see our blog post “exploring the myths of positive training”.
Low value food rewards
Low value food rewards would be kibble or something that your dog will eat but isn’t massively crazy about – this is different for each dog; some dogs are delighted with a piece of carrot, but another dog will sniff and walk away when presented with one, so a little bit of ‘know thy dog’ experimentation is required. As a general rule; everyday kibble would be considered a low value reward unless movement (throw it) or seeking (hide it) is added to it. If your dog is highly food motivated and / or the distraction level is low (you are training in the kitchen for example) then using your dog’s everyday kibble for training is perfect.
Medium value food rewards
Medium value food rewards are probably relatively stinky (meaty) and sticky (moist) and are more motivating to your dog than their everyday kibble. This is what we use for the majority of rewards whilst training as they are of a higher value level than every day food, but not high enough to be kept aside for extra special training requirements such as recall. These Nature’s Menu Real Meaty Treats (for example) are both stinky and sticky and come in an easily resealable packet for convenience – you could also use cheese (sparingly for breeds that have a tendency towards joint related issues) or frankfurter sausage / ham etc. etc.
High value food rewards
High value food rewards are to be used sparingly when you need that added ‘wow – I love that!‘ from your dog; we use them purely for house-training, recall and a high value ‘leave it’. High value food rewards are generally things such as extra special sausage, roast chicken or bought rewards such as the ones below. Again, what is a high value reward to one dog could be a low value reward to another.
Green & Wilds Venison snacks
I haven’t been able to locate these locally, I buy in bulk from Fetch.com or from the Green & Wilds website. https://www.antlerdogchews.co.uk/meaty-dog-treats/venison-deli-snacks
Arden Grange Liver Paste
I haven’t been able to locate this locally either, again I buy in bulk from Fetch.com or from the Arden Grange website. https://www.ardengrange.com/Pet-Food/dog-treats-liver.asp
Neurology of Learning: An Understanding of Neurology as the Basis of Learning and Behaviour in the Domestic Dog. Christina Bond http://www.associationofanimalbehaviorprofessionals.com/vol2no1bond.pdf