Ask the Dogcharmer: Future fatso?

Snacks or no snacks, that is the question.

A wire-haired dachshund puppy. — Courtesy Tom Shelby

Dear Dogcharmer,

We are the happy new parents of a wire-haired dachshund puppy. We know that training is very important and are ready to throw ourselves into this wholeheartedly. While we know that “treats” are the most common motivator, we find ourselves reluctant to give our puppy “snacks’”between meals. Are we confusing good dog parenting with good kid parenting?

This must be a holdout from our human parenting philosophy of “no snacks.” Will our dog be a fatso?

Can you please explain the role of treats in dog training?

Confused in Chilmark

Dear Confused,

When I entered a home for a dog training appointment and found the dog owner’s 6 or 7-year-old son sitting on top of the dining room table eating mashed potatoes and peas with his fingers, I kind of assumed that the dog would also be “mannerless.” When it comes to “treats” (as opposed to snacks), every client has heard me say, “Nothin’ fa nothin’!” All treats are earned, and it starts with manners. The well-mannered dog only poops and pees outdoors, doesn’t jump on you and guests, doesn’t crotch sniff, doesn’t treat you like a chew toy, doesn’t treat your shoes and chair legs like chew toys, and doesn’t run away when called to come. The role of treats is the reward for cooperating. And it’s not the size of the treat that’s important, it’s the association. The Great Dane gets the same sized treat as the toy poodle — very small.

A great starting point is the recall with an automatic sit. You call Doxy to come and just as he arrives, you say “sit” as you move your hand with the treat from his nose up, and straight back. As his head goes up following the treat, his “tush” will go down into a sit. The split second his butt hits the floor he hears “good sit” as the treat goes into his mouth. After a few repetitions you won’t have to say “sit,” it will become automatic with your hand motion. After a few more repetitions, he’ll be conditioned to sit when he comes to a person. The beauty of this type of early training: No corrections necessary. He never develops the habit of jumping and crotch sniffing. His people approaches are “well mannered.” “Nothin’ fa nothin’” early treat training is invaluable in creating the harmony we all look to have with our dogs. Earned treats, as opposed to snacks!

Congrats on your new puppy.                                             

Good luck,

The Dogcharmer

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