Monday, May 16, 2011

High Value Treats

When training greyhounds, hounds, or other non-traditional training breeds, I cannot over emphasize the need for high value treats.  I have been teaching basic obedience classes for greyhounds for about 12 years now and I learned very quickly that you cannot train with crappy dog treats.  Hounds are just not wired for listening and following directions given by humans.  However, if you choose a hound that likes food and you choose good food, you can have a hound as easy and motivated to train as a traditional training breed.  Here are some suggestions.

First, do not train with fruit, vegetables, or bread.  Yes, I know your hound loves it at home when he is doing absolutely nothing, but he will probably not work his tail off for it.  Pockets stuffed with fruit and bread does not make you a very interesting dog trainer especially in public and surrounded by distractions.

The same rule applies to dog treats.  If it is  labeled as a "dog treat" (especially dog biscuits), find something better.  The problem with "dog treats" is that they are often designed to go in your pocket and therefore lack a strong odor.  Dogs often consume treats so quickly that they barely taste it... make sure the treat has a strong odor so the dog knows the food is high value.  My only exception to this rule are dog treats made out of fish (salmon especially) as they tend to stink.  Plato Salmon Strips and the salmon variety of Yummy Chummies have a strong odor and are easy to break apart and to train with. 
All in all, the best treat I have found to train my greyhounds with is real meat.  In the deli section of your grocery story, you may find roasted rotisserie chickens.  I stay alert for sales and buy several when they are available for a good price.
Once the chicken cool to room temperature, I pull all of the meat off the bone and divide into small plastic containers.  I will admit that this is a bit labor intensive.
The freezer section of your grocery store offers several easy pre-cooked alternatives.  You can usually find grilled chicken strips, beef fajita strips, steak strips, and/or an assortment of meatballs.  Remember that these are pre-cooked so you need only to thaw and they are ready for use.
If you are in the mood for cooking, fire up the grill.  Maybe grill yourself something while you are at it.
I keep my eyes open for chicken breasts or thigh meat to grill that is on sale .
I buy turkey, beef, and salmon burgers in bulk so I get a better price.
Just be sure to keep your spouse away from the treats... unless, of course, you are training him too!  "No, Stephen, No!"
If you get into more serious training, you will eventually want to teach your hound about jackpots.  A jackpot is a longer lasting, high value reward for difficult or lengthy work (for example, three minute sit stays).  I teach my greyhounds that if they are working hard for a period of time without a reward that something really great is coming.  This keeps them performing with spark well into a 5 minute obedience routine.  If your hound feels cheated and unappreciated, they will perform as such. 

Peanut butter or creme cheese smeared on the inside of a small plastic container is a reward that keeps on rewarding.  It can take a few minutes for your hound to clean out even a small smear of peanut butter and then it sticks inside of the mouth providing lingering reinforcement for another minute or two.  Just make sure you are not in a hurry to move onto the next exercise.
If you feed raw, you can save your muscle meat as a reward if your dog considers it high value.  I feed a mixture from Blue Ridge Beef that contains beef, heart, liver, and tripe and it makes a great jackpot reward.  You can do something similar with canned dog food.
Cheese is another good reward, but do not get stuck on one variety.  I have trained with cheddar, mozzarella, muenster, Swiss, and Monterey Jack. 

Be sure none of the meat from your Thanksgiving turkey goes to waste.  Skip the skin, but pull off all of the meat that the humans tend to skip.  Last year, I even bought a couple of turkeys on sale right after Thanksgiving and roasted them in my oven.
Also, I always have my old steady, Red Barn, with me.  It is a high quality dog food that comes in a meaty roll.  Once you cut it open, it has to be kept in the refrigerator and what you can't use in a week needs to be frozen.  I have only ever seen Red Barn for sale at dog shows, but similar varieties (Pet Botanicals and Natural Balance) can often be found at PetSmart and Petco.  I use this treat for easy to perform tasks.
Lastly, train with variety.  I always have Red Barn and 2 or 3 high value treat varieties with me when I train.  If you always use the same thing, it will get boring.  Trust me when I say that my greyhounds do not care about pleasing me.  They do what I ask with enthusiasm because the food is good and it pleases them.

Happy Training!


Pam said...

So, when do we get to see videos of your weekend @ Clemson???

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Probably will be up on Thursday. Saturday's Standard run was so awesome!!! :-)

Tarmar said...

Jen, you are right on with this! Even the more traditional breeds in my training classes often need a treat boost! I tell folks that sometimes you can pay them a quarter for their work but when you ask them more, you have to pay them more!

I like to make my own treats as well. I often have a problem with forgetting to put treats back in the fridge. That's important with the good stuff Jen mentions here! One thing that I do is to buy a variety of organ meat: liver, heart, gizzard, kidney etc. I dice it up and boil it. Sometimes I set it aside after boiling for taking to shows. But with most of it, I put it in my food dehydrator. If I forget it in my bag for a day or two, no big worries and the dogs love it!

This kind of thing takes more time but in the end, is cheaper than buying the good treats on the market.

Elizabeth said...

I defiantly agree with you about hounds needing higher value treats during distractions.

Kibble may work for trick training at home but my dachshund needs me to make agility worth his while and cheese and meat are defiantly the way to go.

If you have a much smaller dog the deli section I've found is also a good place to find treats. Sometimes they have ham or chipped beef or little cubes of chicken meant for salads. They are small enough to be the perfect size for little dogs. You just have to worry about the sodium content is all. Meat baby food is also a wonderful jackpot reward.

And for trails I break out the big guns. Liverwurst.

4-legged Wiums said...

yum yum yum
ours love raw pre-cooked sausages, tho last week they got some leftover BBQ steak and wow, they have never had so much drive!

jet said...

Barbie often gets trained with polony, cheese, sausage and steak bits, dried liver treats, carob drops (she LOVES them), home made cookies, 4-legs (which is a kind of precooked dog food that comes in little balls of meat), 'chicken pollock', peanut butter, tinned tuna... she is a guts though so it's pretty easy to get her motivated. :)

houndstooth said...

If only I'd read this before we went to obedience class tonight! Bunny knows the commands, but she is not fond of sitting or laying down on cement. What I had wasn't worth doing it more than a couple of times. lol I am definitely taking real meat with me next time!

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

So true! For Beryl's doggie dancing training I'm using expensive dried liver. I doubt anything else would keep her motivated for long. This is her 'crack'!

Could you do a post on how you train for duration between treats? Beryl's mantra is "I ain't doin nothin for nothin"!! She will do a rally zoom course without treats but a straight rally course she makes it plain I'm only getting 1 sit or down out of her without her being rewarded, lol:)

I'm looking forward to Thursday's post!

Andreja said...

Thank you for treat and jackpot ideas! I am definitely guilty of not giving my hound enough variety in his treats, so let's hope this will change now :)

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Greyhounds Can Sit, yes. I'll do something soon.

Muttsandaklutz said...

Wow, that sure is quite the variety!

Loooove that peanut butter jackpot trick. Thanks for sharing!

Greyhounds CAN Sit said...

I forgot to say please:) Thank you, I'll really be looking forward to that post too!

whygreyhounds said...

Yeap...Rex is the same as standard treats just don't motivate him at all! He loves any roasted meat..chicken, steak, burgers and silver side or pickled pork...the smell gets him really motivated. Also the fish & meat pastes on occasion have worked a treat but the thing he just adores is.....wait for it.....Apple & cinnamon Muesli Bars!!!! I know 'people food' but he will heel for 5 minutes if he can smell those things around the training area just waiting for me to click & dose a small bit!!!

thedoghouse said...

Great ideas! As a vegan I would just love it if my dogs got all excited about a piece of carrot or sweet potato... but though they'll happily nom away on one of those in the house or backyard, meat & cheese really do need to be brought out when it comes to training. I bake my own liver/cheese/fish based dog biscuits, chop up cooked sausage, roast whole chickens & pick them apart like you do (then boil the bones to make stock which I then use in my homemade biscuits) & dice up parmesan into tiny little cubes... Apart from anything else, at least you know exactly what you're feeding your dog when you create their treats yourself - so many commercial dog treats contain a heap of c**p! So, I may not be a terribly good vegan for doing it, but I'm an excellent dog Mum!!

Jay said...

I found this out quite by accident! I took my hound to an obedience class shortly after adopting him, mainly to help us build a rapport than for any big reason. I had the hardest time getting him to sit, when finally I had the wise idea of chopping up hot dogs. He learned sit and down SO fast after that, heh.

Never Say Never Greyhounds said...

Jay, glad you made the discovery!!! Makes a huge difference.