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Will Work for Food

Dog-training treats tempt with meaty aromas, natural ingredients and bite-size goodness
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

Training treats with high meat content are especially effective in training as dogs love the taste and smell of meat.
Not all dog treats are created equally. Biscuits and crunchy cookies fill canine bellies between meals, but meaty morsels with tantalizing aromas get dogs’ attention—and make ideal motivators for obedience training.

Just ask Jim Burwell, a Houston-based professional dog trainer and national section chair for Pet Care Services Association. He rewards obedient dogs with higher-value food treats: morsels that smell and taste scrumptious.

“When training a dog, I use anything that motivates the dog, and the higher-value the food treat the better,” he says. “So I use freeze-dried liver or lamb sausage in contrast to a boring cookie. There is a difference, and dogs recognize what tastes good and what tastes so-so.”

The American Pet Products Association’s 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey reports a rise in treat sales. Of 580 dog owners surveyed in 2006, 90 percent of them purchased treats for their pets, representing an increase of 9 percent over the last decade. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed who bought treats for their dogs purchased meat treats for their dogs, which is an increase of 4 percent since 2004; 49 percent purchased a non-meat treat, which is a decline of 2 percent in that same period.

“Regardless of the size of one’s dog, meat treats remain the most popular types purchased,” the survey summary states.
 
Keeping Dogs Motivated

Dog Treat Sales

1996 1998 2000 2002 2004 2006
Total Dog Owners
Percent that buys treats 81 80 79 81 88 90
Small Dogs
Percent that buys treats 83 79 78 83 91 93
Medium Dogs
Percent that buys treats 74 78 75 79 81 93
Large Dogs
Percent that buys treats 78 81 80 80 88 90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Source: 2007-2008 APPA National Pet Owners Survey

Treats are the ultimate motivator for dogs, says Camille Gerrish, owner of Completely Canine in Miami. When teaching a dog obedience, a trainer can use these rewards, along with verbal praise, to motivate the pet to do what he or she commands.

“Training with treats is good because it makes it fun for the dog,” she states. “The dog loves learning because it gets this great reward, which entices the dog to do what you want it to do, which is the ultimate goal: getting the dog to do the behaviors that you want it to perform.”

Eventually, the dog will become conditioned to associate obedient behavior with something good, and it will perform the behavior simply for praise. It’s all based on a concept called positive-reinforcement training, says Nicole Zuehl, head dog trainer for Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife in Frazier Park, Calif.

“In positive-reinforcement training, you reinforce the behaviors you want from the dog with food, toys and verbal praise,” she says. “If the dog has not done something correct, we re-do, re-ask and re-perform whatever task we’re asking of the animal until we get behavior we’ll reward for.”

Treats are the ultimate motivator for dogs, as evidenced by this balancing pet.
Treats work well in positive-reinforcement training, confirms Barbara Denzer, vice president of marketing for Cardinal Laboratories Inc. in Azusa, Calif. The aroma grabs a dog’s attention, getting it to focus on its owner.

“And then it will also motivate the dog to perform,” she adds. “It will reinforce that the dog did something good and make it more successful. That will shorten the learning curve, and if you shorten the learning curve, the dog is successful. The owner feels like she’s accomplished something, and the whole process becomes a positive experience for both the dog and the owner.”
 
Meat, Size Make a Difference
Though training treats come in many different formulas, tastes and varieties, meat-based treats are especially effective, says Jenny Williams, marketing manager for Dogswell in Los Angeles.

“Training treats can be found in many forms, such as jerky or moist chews, and they are characterized by their small size, palatable nature and ability to be eaten quickly,” she says. “Training treats with high meat content are especially effective in training as dogs love the taste and smell of meat.”

Types of Treats Purchased 

2004

 2006

Meat treats 65 69
Non-meat treats 51 49
Vegetarian Treats 8 6
Holistic Treats 1 2
Weight Control Treats N/A 3
Kosher Treats 1 1
Other 16 21

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: 2007-2008 APPA National Pet Owners Survey

As with other segments in the pet industry, manufacturers target the all-natural trends prevalent in dog owners’ shopping habits, Williams adds. Dog owners want to make sure they’re feeding their pets healthy treats.

“Like never before, dog owners and trainers are really examining and understanding the ingredient labels on the food and treats they are giving to their pets and opting for healthy, premium products with no byproducts or artificial ingredients,” she says.

When retailers are choosing which training treats to sell in their stores, they should look for products that say “training” on the package, indicating their purpose, and list some kind of meat as their first ingredient, Denzer says.

“If meat is the first ingredient on the package, there’s a high meat content and you know you’re feeding a good training treat,” she says.
Treat size matters, too, Denzer adds. A package containing a greater quantity of small treats works especially well for obedience training, when trainers give dogs nibbles as rewards rather than big pieces that take time to chew.

“Something that might influence a dog owner’s choice would be the size of the treat,” she confirms. “Some dogs, even big dogs, can still get by with a small treat as long as it has the aroma and the meat. So you might find one that has more treats per package for the same price.”
 
Training Customers

The treat’s appealing aroma can grabs a dog’s attention, getting it to focus on its owner.
Retailers who offer training classes or affiliate themselves with a trainer can enjoy brisk training-treat sales. Gerrish’s trainer provides treats to her students, who then purchase the meaty morsels in the store.

“When people come to our private or group classes, we provide a selection of treats, since dogs have different preferences,” she says. “Most people see how much their dogs like it, so they’ll buy a bag or two of treats. It’s great: We sell a lot of product during our group classes.”

It’s an approach that works well for pet stores, according to Denzer, especially if the treat makers provide samples for use during training sessions.

“Get the trainer to recommend to everyone in the training class two or three of the specialty training treats the retailer carries, and that will really help increase sales,” she adds.

Shelf talkers, banners and informational brochures work, too, to guide owners to the right kinds of treats for training, Williams says.

Number of Packages of Treats Purchased in the Past 12 Months   

2000 2002 2004 2006
1 to 2 packages 71 67 16 16
3 to 5 packages 22 25 25 27
6 to 10 packages 5 5 22 23
11+ packages 2 2 35 33

 

 

 

 

Source: 2007-2008 APPA National Pet Owners Survey 

“Setting up endcaps is also a strong way to promote, along with coupons and circular ads,” she says. “Doing demos is another great way to promote a product and educate the consumer, along with heavy sampling in the store to further drive treat sales.”

Dog owners who use healthy training treats can ultimately be more successful at training their pets and caring for their overall well being, Williams asserts.

“Pet owners love to feed their pets healthy food but often look to unhealthy treats to give their pets,” she says. “Feeding pets healthy treats is just as important as feeding them healthy food, especially in the training process when a lot of treats are involved.” <HOME>


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