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I have been reviewing general-obedience videos recently. All of them that were updated or produced since, say, 1996, use treats for beginning training.

I know I sure do.

I'm curious about whether there are people on this board who do not start their training with treats. And I'm wondering how they do it.
 

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Jerry Lyda said:
I use treats. The only way to go with a pup or young dog. After prey drive kicks in I use a tug toy.
I also use treats with an untrained adult (which is mainly what I have to work with), for the start of any training.
 

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To me I guess it depends on the purpose of the dog. If it's a house pet then sure, treat it all you like. If it's a working dog then I think you have to take other things into consideration, such as, obviously, what type of work the dog is doing. Training and work should be rewarding and, if and when possible, fun. Treats should be only a part of a training program and not the crutch of the training program, aka Petsmart, etc.

One thing I have seen is that many working dogs have drive out the wazoo and are plenty happy to work with or without treats, etc. If the dog NEEDS a treat to be motivated then perhaps that dog is better at being a pet than a serious working dog. I think some people make the mistake of believing their dog needs a treat when in fact it does not.

The bottom line is getting the dog to do what you want it to do. If it works and doesn't create a detriment for your purpose then I see no harm in it.
 

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Patrick Murray said:
......The bottom line is getting the dog to do what you want it to do. If it works and doesn't create a detriment for your purpose then I see no harm in it.
That says it all; excellent point.

And yes, treats are PART of the program. (For me, an important part :lol: .)
 

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Mike Schoonbrood said:
I love treats, I think the people who don't like training with treats either lack the patience to train motivationally so want to shortcut to compulsion, or they don't quite understand how using treats works in a dogs mind. A dog doesn't work for praise, they like praise, but they won't work for it. I dare you to take a dog and train them without a prong collar and without a reward, just praise. I compare it to going to work and your paycheck at the end of the month being a big hug from your boss.
There is no intelligent response to this remark.If you believe this then you just dont know dogs.

Greg
 

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Greg Long said:
Mike Schoonbrood said:
I love treats, I think the people who don't like training with treats either lack the patience to train motivationally so want to shortcut to compulsion, or they don't quite understand how using treats works in a dogs mind. A dog doesn't work for praise, they like praise, but they won't work for it. I dare you to take a dog and train them without a prong collar and without a reward, just praise. I compare it to going to work and your paycheck at the end of the month being a big hug from your boss.
There is no intelligent response to this remark.If you believe this then you just dont know dogs.

Greg
while i wouldn't quite put it that way.....there are many dogs that will work only for praise mike. perhaps not in the beginning during the instruction phase, but certainly once the desired behavior is learned, some dogs will do it for nothing but praise. i think maybe you were talking about the instruction phase mike?

the perfect example is the assistance dog. what motivates the dog to turn on the light, open the door, pick up the phone, etc.? do you think the person gives the dog a treat or plays ball with the dog EVERY time the dog does one of those tasks? either the dog would get grossly overweight very quickly or the disabled person would be tired of throwing a ball all day. for 90% of the tasks, a "good boy" and a pat on the head is all the dog gets and wants....
 

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Sit, stay, come, etc. are basic manners that every dog needs to learn. I don't think I need to treat my dog for those things just as I wouldn't hand my kid a Hershey bar for sitting when asked. However, I don't think it is wrong to use some when first trying to teach a command in order to keep it positive. In fact I used little bits of hot dog in getting my puppies to learn the "come" command off leash (whereas before they were never off leash). It worked great. Eventually I think you need to wean out the hot dogs because, if it is a working dog, the dog should be obedient and come to you because it knows you are the boss. If that sounds harsh then so be it. Should I give my son, when he's 10, a candy bar every time I ask him to get up and come over and see me? Exactly.

But you can't argue with success. All of us may have a different approach with a different dog. The bottom line is, does the dog work and work well? If the anwer is "yes" then it's hard to find fault with the dog's training. But if the answer is "no" then the handler should re-examine some of the philosophies they have followed, as I did.

What works best will probably vary from dog to dog and from task to task. But if my dog is a working machine that follows my commands with the proverbial smile on its face then you will have a difficult time convincing me that I should have been treating my dog all along.

The bottom line is if the dog is working then keep it up. If it ain't then take another look at what you're doing, find what works and go with it.
 

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This
QUOTE I don't think it is wrong to use some when first trying to teach a command in order to keep it positive. In fact I used little bits of hot dog in getting my puppies to learn the "come" command off leash (whereas before they were never off leash). It worked great. Eventually I think you need to wean out the hot dogs because, if it is a working dog, the dog should be obedient and come to you because it knows you are the boss. END QUOTE
is *exactly* how I use treats.

I use treats to set/solidify markers. (I look at it like this: I can't be instantaneous with a treat, but I *can* be with "yes." The treat makes the marker a very good thing in the beginner dog's mind.)

And yes, I do wean the dog off the treats, working or not. For me, the instruction phase is the phase where I use treats. This might come up again with a dog, long after, say, his Ob training is solid and proofed and treats are no longer involved, if I start a new kind of training, because I'm then back to the instruction phase.

An example (for me) is that I'm teaching my dogs formal retrieves and "out". We're past the instruction phase for general obedience and treats for the basic command are over, but now the treats are back for this new instruction phase. Same thing when I taught the "step behind me and stay until released" command.

So I guess I was aking if anyone has success in the beginning phase of training with no treats (or other reward, like toys).
 

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Patrick Murray said:
Sit, stay, come, etc. are basic manners that every dog needs to learn. I don't think I need to treat my dog for those things just as I wouldn't hand my kid a Hershey bar for sitting when asked. However, I don't think it is wrong to use some when first trying to teach a command in order to keep it positive. In fact I used little bits of hot dog in getting my puppies to learn the "come" command off leash (whereas before they were never off leash). It worked great. Eventually I think you need to wean out the hot dogs because, if it is a working dog, the dog should be obedient and come to you because it knows you are the boss. If that sounds harsh then so be it. Should I give my son, when he's 10, a candy bar every time I ask him to get up and come over and see me? Exactly.

You don't have to hand your kid a candy bar to treat him/her. The comparison also falls apart because the minds of dogs and children operate differently.

This all boils down to basic behavioral management. I'm sure we've all heard of the concept of punishment vs reinforcement (and that these can be positive or negative). Thnk B. F. Skinner. Reinforcement does just what it sounds: it reinforces a,behavior, makes it desirable. This is usually a reward of some kind. It can be positive, such in teh case of giving the dog a piece of food (you're adding something to the situation so its' "positive"). It can be negative, such as taking away something painful (i.e. stopping a prong correction for following a command); "negative" means you're removing something to reinforce the idea. Punishment seeks to erradicate a behavior. It can also be negative or positive. Positive punishment would be a leash correction after a command is not followed, or a spanking for a child. Negative punishment could be loss of a privilege, or walking away without giving the dog a treat.

So what's my point? Treating a dog and using the prong until the dog follows a command are both forms of reinforcement; it's just that one is positive and the other negative. Both will work...the problem is the spirit of the dog in question. I think we all agree that during initial training punishment is a bad thing (just as with small children). What works for one dog may not work for another, and it really depends on the trainer.

Personally I started Achilles out with treats and praise together as markers, and have since moved to his ball. We do use treats for new concepts, but getting to play a game of tug or retreive is award enough for him for things he already knows. At times praise also works -- he enjoys a good rub down! He is of course now corrected for failure to comply with commands he absolutely does know. It hasn't taken much -- heh responds well to corrections.

I have not used treats with Andi -- she is motivated by praise and attention from me and I've used it. So far she has learned come and sitz without much effort and understands the meaning of pfui and nein. She has also learned to heel by me refusing to walk unless she's at my left side. However, she's a soft dog so I have to watch it.

I see nothing wrong with using treats. You have to do what motivates YOUR dog. Most puppies have a high food drive, so I say do what works: food. I don't see any reason to make your life harder...FWIW, my children also work on a positive reinforcement system. They each have a list of expectations they know they havef to follow (chores, behavior). Following them earns points which are redeemed for rewards. Not following them results in losing points (fines(. Sometimes the rewards they want ARE food...
 

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Stacia Porter said:
........Treating a dog and using the prong until the dog follows a command are both forms of reinforcement; it's just that one is positive and the other negative. Both will work...the problem is the spirit of the dog in question. I think we all agree that during initial training punishment is a bad thing (just as with small children). .......
Boy, you clarified my own thinking very well! :)
 

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[quote="Stacia Porter Most puppies have a high food drive[/quote]

Stacia, I think it's accurate to say that all living beings have the so-called "food drive". A dog needs to eat regardless of whether it is being trained or not being trained. Eating is less a desire than it is a need.
 

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Stacia Porter said:
You don't have to hand your kid a candy bar to treat him/her. The comparison also falls apart because the minds of dogs and children operate differently.
You have a point, dogs are not people or wolves, they are DOGS. You don't think the analogy is good but I think it has merit. However, we may agree to disagree.

But on to another point. The analogy has been made in this thread that dogs need to be rewarded (paid) for their work. The reward is play and treats. And why must this be? Because humans would most certainly expect some sort of formal compensation for their loyalty and efforts and therefore dogs must think in exactly the manner. That logic is mistaken.

For example, I trust my dog does not stay awake at night wondering why he's only getting 3 cups of food a day and not 4 or wondering why he doesn't get chicken on the grill 3 times a week instead of 2 times. He is absolutely content to do my bidding without any qualm or issues. When I tell him to come he comes and as far as he knows that's just the way it is and he has no problem with it. Do you question why the sun rises in the east? No. Why? Because that's just the way it is. I didn't use treats as a crutch for establishing a bond and relationship with him. While I would do some things differently (wouldn't we all) I don't regret the limited us of treats I used with him as a puppy, and they were limited for sure.

It's only in our heads, not the dogs' heads, that they must be formally compensated. It's a myth that we have created and fostered. Dogs are dogs, not people.
 

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Patrick Murray said:
...... I didn't use treats as a crutch for establishing a bond and relationship with him. .......
I didn't/don't either, I'm pretty sure. I did/do use them for strengthening the marker (again, in the instruction phase).

I love it that my dogs love training. I want them to be eager to train. For me, I think that positive reinforcement of this type works great toward that end. But again, I'm sure that using treats in the first phase of training isn't the only effective way to train (as Stacia points out), just as no method is the one-and-only for every dog and every trainer.

This kind of feedback* is exactly what I hoped to get. Thank you, everyone.

*I tried to come up with a no-pun version here..... but it was between "food for thought" and "feedback." :lol: :lol:
 

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walk into your house one day n just stand there in front of your dog n say nothing... what does your dog do? Mine will jump around a bit n walk away.

Now walk into the house again n hold up a piece of food, my dog will sit, shake paw, bark, n run thru his routine of commands till he gets the food.
Scenario 1: My dog will sit nicely and look at me, wagging her tail.

Scenario 2: My dog will sit nicely and look at me, wagging her tail. Then she will smell the food and sniff up into the air, while still sitting.

Meanwhile, Jak is outside in his kennel barking his fool head off and bouncing off the sides of it because he wants to be let out NOW and I'm not fast enough for him. :lol: :lol:


The reason for using praise/food/play/whatever is so the dog will want to do what we want him to do, and not just do it because he's afraid of getting a correction.
 

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Mike Schoonbrood said:
.............I don't see a problem with food, you can proof a dog that is weened off food and still use food during training, everything I do with my dogs should be fun or it's pointless for me to do. ......
That's my own goal: I want the dogs to love training and have fun. Treats, for me, enhance the marker at the beginning. (But for me, there's nothing wrong with treats, period. It's just that in the instruction phase, they're just solidly a part of that phase when I train.)

I do carry treats around ...... I like it when my dog is happy and pleased at pleasing me, and a treat just makes it more so.

When I say "treats are for the instruction phase," and "I then wean the dog off treats," I mean I *always* use treats for the instruction period, then I phase them out. I don't mean that I never give treats again after that. :lol:

Mike, your example of kind of re-doing ob. work is very interesting to me. It sounds like a positive/therapeutic way to change the whole experience for the better after a not-so-hot experience at first. It's a new idea to me, and my gut reaction is quite positive. I would like to hear more as it progresses, if you feel like it.

We all say (and have experienced) that dogs live in the moment, unlike us. What you're doing sounds like a nifty way to redo the whole ob thing.

When you say "bribe," that's not quite how I look at it. For me, bribe and reward are not synonyms.

Again, I really appreciate these thoughtful responses.
 

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the thing is mike, that is just ONE dog. it's great that you've found that food will give him that "pep" or enthusiastic energy, but there are dogs that will have that same pep from praise alone...
 

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Jerry Lyda said:
Country logic- "You can catch more flies with honey" :D
I use treats for puppies, toys later for young dogs and for the finished dogs I use praise and a good old banging in the ribs GOOD BOY
My question is, is any dog a finished dog? :wink:
Excellent point! 8) Just like my hope and expectation that I have some "finishing" left to do on me! (OK, maybe "a lot of" instead of "some" :lol: :lol: .)
 
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