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Confessions of a Neurotic Dog Mom: I’m Holding Out on the Good Treats

Hotdog man

We adopted June from the Delco SPCA when she was 8 weeks old and had been with a foster mom for two. Before that she was rescued from an overcrowded kill shelter in Kentucky.

Her foster mom typed up a two-page treatise on how timid she was. At their house, she wriggled out of her collar and hid under a car for hours. She ran from their other dogs. She wasn’t interested in toys.

By the time we read it, we had already held her. She was ours. Our little basket case.

Kibble as Training Treats

Now, we live on a 50-acre hay farm full of small creatures and the birds of prey that like to eat them. With 6 lb June in my arms, trying to wriggle away so she could hide from me, I could only think of her getting loose outside and picked up by a falcon.

By day two of having her home this fear had bubbled up into a full-blown frenzy. I needed her to want to come to me. Her very life depended on it!

I spent the entire day luring her over to me with pieces of kibble, while my fiance made grave predictions about the kind of overachieving mother I was already becoming. I was afraid to use anything besides kibble because puppy stomachs can be sensitive.

Well, she was hungry, so it worked. She learned her name and “come” with a few days. It was the beginning of our bond, and she still follows me all around the house.

Upgrading to Soft Training Treats

I taught her a few other basics, like “sit,” with a combination of kibble pieces and these little crunchy Charlee Bear dog training treats.

But, many times her fear got the better of her. I learned in obedience class that you have to find your dog’s currency to help them overcome their fear. What are they willing to work for? Maybe it’s a toy. Maybe it’s a piece of cheese. For instance, I don’t particularly like driving on the highway, but if I’m driving on the highway to surf, or go to Dairy Queen, that’s another story.

So in obedience class, when June go too freaked out by the other dogs and people to focus on Charlee Bears, I asked our teacher, Loretta, what I should do. She recommended these horribly smelly, soft salmon treats from Plato.

But now we’ve been at the salmon treats for a while. When I bring them on our walks, to distract her from scary things like a leaf blowing by, she’s more interested in the leaf.

The Hold Out

I have known for a while that I should test out something even more high-value, like cheese or bits of turkey hotdog, but was afraid she’d turn on whatever that was too. Eventually, I’ll be lightly roasting filet and cutting it into tiny bits every night to entice her. (Do you even roast filet? A cook I am not).

So I have been holding out.

Until this week. We’re staying at my mom and dad’s for a few nights while we watch Thunder. And you know what treats Thunder gets these days? Charlee Bears. That’s right.

I busted a few out for an impromptu “stay” session, and June was psyched! The key to training treats has got to be, at least partially, about variety.

…I suppose if I had to drive on the highway every day for the same exact DQ Blizzard flavor, lets say Reese’s Cups, I’d eventually stay home, watch Fraiser reruns and chew on a carrot stick.

So I’m no longer scared to offer her the higher value goodies for tough tasks in new environments. Turkey hot dogs and overachievement here we come!

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m the same, holding out on Rita with the really high value stuff. Part of my problem though is that the one place I REALLY want her to come back to me is when she runs too far ahead and the huge off-leash beach/park we have here. But I can’t bring cheese there, or I’ll be mobbed by every dog in the place!

    August 9, 2013
    • Hah! We need to find some space-aged cheese where the smell is only activated when it hits your dog’s saliva.

      August 9, 2013
  2. Felix was extrememly fear motivated when we adopted him at three. On the advice of our trainer, we actually used high value treats in a rotation, using something different every single session, so nothing lost it’s value. Save something extremely awesome for emergencies and use it ONLY when you really need it. (ie. we used liverwurst during storms) Some real winners? Chunk light tuna or canned salmon, smelly stinky cheese, liver wurst, boiled liver chunks, and sardines. I smelled like a homeless person, but man! Did it work.

    August 11, 2013
    • HAH! “I smelled like a homeless person, but man did it work!” THANK YOU – this is fabulous advice. We will get on the Felix plan ASAP.

      August 14, 2013

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