dog earns treatDo you enjoy giving your pup a treat now and then – or more often? Treating the ones we love makes us feel good, but did you know your dog may get more satisfaction from having to work a bit to earn that treat? It’s true!

Many of us have experienced the satisfaction and pleasure of figuring out a difficult problem and reaping the reward of our hard work. It turns out that dogs are no different. A dog that earns treats also receives satisfaction from learning and earning their rewards.

The Research

A recent study confirms that working for their treats is something dogs enjoy! Conducted at the Swedish University in Uppsala and published in Animal Cognition, the study found that dogs may experience positive states in response to their own achievements.

The study looked at 12 beagles (divided into pairs) who were trained to perform a set of tasks, such as pressing a lever, playing a dog piano, or pushing objects. They were rewarded with either a treat, human attention, or contact with another dog. One set of dogs was the control group and received a treat reward regardless of how they used the equipment. The other set of dogs was rewarded only when performing the task they had been trained to do.

The study found that the dogs were more excited, wagged their tails more, and entered the training area more quickly when they were rewarded for performing specific tasks rather than simply receiving a reward for no reason. It seems dogs, too, experience the satisfaction of a job well done!

Dogs and Learning

The results of the study also suggest that dogs learned to do things that helped them survive as their species evolved. In addition, previous research shows that emotional arousal boosts learning and memory, and thus survival.

You don’t have to get complicated research equipment to get your dog working. Since we now know that dogs like to earn their treats, the team at Leon Valley Veterinary Hospital has put together some simple ideas of fun ways to get your dog working:

  • Hide your dog’s regular meal in a food puzzle.
  • Hide toys in different places around the home and send them on a search.
  • Have your pet heel and sit during your daily walks.
  • Give them a treat after a command.
  • Have your pet “stay” until you release them.
  • If your dog has the temperament and overall health, join a herding, agility, or flyball group.

Having your dog work a little to earn their treat is a great way to enrich their environment and boost happiness. If you’d like more ideas about how to keep your dog healthy and happy, don’t hesitate to contact our team.