How Treat Circles Benefit Your Puppy
If you’ve ever checked in on your puppy at Canine to Five using our live webcams, you may have seen them sitting in a sea of pups waiting patiently (or not so patiently!) for their turn to receive a treat from a Pack Leader. Treat circles, or Group Sits, are one of our favorite activities to do with our Puppy Program attendees; Not only do they give the pups a break from their wrestling matches, but they teach our puppies valuable skills as well!
Group Sits are a great way to build a puppy’s ability to take turns, wait patiently, and pay attention to a human in a distracting environment. Puppies learn that they earn treats only when they stay sitting until they hear their name, and they learn that reaching for other puppies’ treats doesn’t pay off. Of course, it’s up to the Pack Leader to make sure that each puppy’s skill level is being taken into account—some pups need to be called every other time anyone gets a treat or the activity becomes frustrating, while others have no problem waiting through a dozen name calls before their turn.
For our more nervous pups, Group Sits can go a long way toward building confidence around other dogs. When a nervous puppy is rewarded for choosing to be part of a group activity, a positive association is built over time. Basically, being around other puppies = good things happening! Even if a pup is more generally nervous but comfortable around other dogs, Group Sits can still help build confidence simply because they learn how to make choices that earn them rewards. It’s like learning the rules to a new game, and then getting really good at it—it’s more likely that you’ll be open to learning another new game next time!
Dogs are social creatures and can learn to work together with humans, each other, and even other kinds of animals to achieve a goal. A trainer I look up to (Kate Wilson of K9 Turbo Training) told an anecdote at a conference once about using treat circles to train a dog with a very strong prey drive to view the turkeys on her property as training partners instead of prey!
Next time you check in on your puppy during their day in our Puppy Program and see them participating in Group Sits, you can be very proud of all the skills they’re learning!
Megg Ellis | Canine to Five