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Training without/limited treats?

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  • Training without/limited treats?

    Hey all. I am looking to get a new puppy in the distant future--trying to wait until after college so I have the time to dedicate to my new special guy. But it's been awhile since I've had a puppy in the house, and the last couple family dogs were... uh, spoiled by my parents.

    I've always had dogs. I don't think I've gone through more then a year without one--my parents had one when I was born, and always got a new one when the old one passed away. I'm good with them, but we've always, always trained with treats. Sit, treat. Down, treat. Eventually, the dogs would do whatever unless they wanted a treat (ie wouldn't come unless they were hungry), or my parents' current dog, won't do ANYTHING unless you have food. The look on his face is hilarious and aggravating at the same time--he will ignore you and look away until you come back with a treat.

    With that being said, the current dog is the best dog we've ever had. A good dog; will not touch anything on the counters, free range of the house at all hours, no leash needed on the property, no barking, biting, no crazy excited nonsense for strangers--a good boy.

    But I still don't want my dog to end up with the whole 'will work for food only' mentality. I always see those agility dogs running around on course with no leash/no treats, and always think, 'Wow, our dog would lose focus and wander away unless you had a hot dog in your hand!' Or the herding dogs that can be called off of the sheep with no treat reward. (But they love the sheep!)

    So how in the world do you get away from that? Is it the mentality of the dog, something I have to take on a dog-by-dog basis? Are there any good books to read? Any way to vet out good obedience trainers so that once I do get the dog, I can get some hands on work to? I have a long time before I actually GET the dog, but would love to hear the input from you guys on things I could be researching until then. Eventually I'd like to do baby herding with the dog--no trials or anything, but with pygmy goats around the farm--and can't imagine how to do it without food. I want the dog to work for me, not a treat--kind of like my horses
    Last edited by mayfieldk; Dec. 7, 2011, 02:31 PM. Reason: Can't spell.

  • #2
    Treats are a tool. They can be used properly or incorrectly. If you would prefer to not use them, it's easy to fade treats. Read this here: http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/iss...ps_5629-1.html

    And it sounds like your parents dog has his people VERY well trained to provide treats! Asking something of the dog, not getting a response, leaving and then returning with treats ONLY teaches the dog to not respond unless treats are in hand!

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      Oh trust me, I know!! He's a good dog so I don't ask him of much, but it's hard to retrain because both parents give in to him 100% of the time. He's not stupid that's for sure!!

      Thanks for the link, reading and bookmarking it now.

      Comment


      • #4
        I want the dog to work for me, not a treat--kind of like my horses
        well, think about it. Your horses don't work "for you", they work because if they don't you'll whip, kick, chain-shank, or otherwise punish them. Really. Think about it some more. Most horse-training involves a lot of physical punishment, psychological intimidation, and physical restraints.

        Practically everyone who says "I want my dog to do X because I said so" or "I want my dog to work FOR ME" don't seem to notice that they almost always end up using punishments, so the dog is actually working to avoid punishments- which can vary from anything from a disapproving tone of voice to some kind of collar correction to outright abuse like hitting and kicking.

        The bottom line is NOBODY works for NOTHING. Not dogs, not people, not horses. There is a motivation there somewhere. It might be a complicated, multi-layered motivation, but it's there (why do you obey your mom? is a useful exercise to think about. Once you're an adult it's mostly habit, which is why most trained dogs/horses obey, but there's something else there: she'll whine at you and irritate you until you do it? your dad will come over and swat you if you don't? you enjoy the feelings you get when she smiles at you?).

        Now on the other hand, treats/food ARE the second-most incorrectly used training tool ever invented (the word NO being the first most incorrectly used). If the dog won't obey unless you show the dog your hotdog first, you have totally messed up your training. Doesn't mean the "tool" is a bad tool, just that you used it wrong.

        Also if you're doing "positive reinforcement" type training, and you ONLY use food, you're not using your full set of possible tools. You can and should use "environmental rewards", praise, toys, games, petting, and food, or well, anything the dog wants can and should be used to train the dog.

        There's a lot of science and sophisticated theory behind modern training techniques. I suggest starting out by reading Karen Pyror's book "Don't shoot the dog". It won't teach you how to train, but it'll explain in clear language the theory behind the methods.

        The good trainers all use this theory behind their techniques even if they don't realize it.

        And even the most scatter-brained food-motivated dog can magically turn into a dog that appears to be "working FOR YOU" using these techniques, and yes, using food, if you do it right. You can start out with food and end up with a dog who will focus and obey with every appearance enjoyment even if you forget to bring any treats along.

        I always see those agility dogs running around on course with no leash/no treats, and always think, 'Wow, our dog would lose focus and wander away unless you had a hot dog in your hand!
        ah, but what you don't realize is that dog you see running was probably trained using thousands of treats (and/or toys). The tool was used, the training was accomplished, the food is faded out.


        I've always thought trainers who were "opposed" to any particular tool for some grand philosophical reason were kind of short-sighted. Especially food. Most dogs are a snap to train with food; you can rapidly teach them what you want, and fade out the food. If you'd instead have insisted on training them with praise, or collar-corrections, it'll take much longer and you won't get as good results. And it doesn't matter what "tool" you use to train with, you have to fade it out.
        If your dog won't work unless you have a leash and a prong collar on him how is that any different than a dog who won't work unless you show him the tennis ball or the hotdogs first? bad training technique, not bad training tool.

        Comment


        • #5
          All behavior is rewarded somehow. All beings have something they are willing to work for. Food is simply the easiest and often the most convenient.

          As Wendy said, learn about training theory before you discard the idea of food, then condition many reinforcers so that you have a toolbox full of them.

          Some that come to mind immediately.....

          tug
          fetch
          car rides
          going out
          coming in
          jump to touch your hand
          get up on the bed/couch with you
          access to special toys

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Actually, I have read 'Don't Shoot the Dog'. I understand positive/negative reinforcement, etc.

            I should have worded my question better. I was just looking for information in fading out treats and the like, as I've yet to get my hands on dog-specific information like this and wanted to do some research in it. I guess I just didn't know what to call it.

            Your horses don't work "for you", they work because if they don't you'll whip, kick, chain-shank, or otherwise punish them.
            Well, not exactly. Horses and dogs have systems of hierarchy and are gregarious creatures by nature--so it's not just 'whips and chains' that keep them in line. There's a large psychological aspect too that makes them so easily trainable.

            Comment


            • #7
              I can assure you that my agility dog, who runs courses and never once loses focus on me (and can be called off the tail of a running deer, and walk off leash everywhere) was trained almost exclusively with treats. She has very, very low toy drive, and, like most dogs, not a whole lot if interest in "pleasing for the sake of pleasing". The idea that dogs should want to work for you is, in my opinion, as silly as saying I should want to work for my boss for nothing, just because I am aware he outranks me. And that is assuming that our dogs think that rank matters and that people fall into that ranking - which is a debate for another time. My young dog has crazy toy drive, and will work for both treats and tugging. It's nice to have both as options for different reasons (treats chill him out, tug revs him up), but training him with neither would not get us far.

              Finding some sport dog books may give you the best advice on fading treats and other rewards. Don't Shoot the Dog, which I know you said you've read, does a really good job explaining the hows and whys of it, at least for the way my brain works. You basically (eventually, when the behavior is solid) want to become a slot machine. Think how addictive they are - people sit there and pull a bar over and over and over, for that one moment of a jackpot. Randomly rewarding a known behavior with a boatload of treats/play/praise/etc actually can motivate a dog more than rewarding every single time with a small treat.

              The other big trick as you are training is to be sure you are using the food as a reward *not* as a lure. Look for books that teach you about shaping behaviors, which is great because the dog never relies on the food in front of their face to tell them what to do. Shaping Success, by Susan Garrett, is a very fun read that is part journal, part story, and part training advice, and goes into this wonderfully.

              I can certainly understand not wanting a dog that will ignore you unless there is food visible, but be sure you don't discount treat training as a whole because you know of dogs who do that. It is the way the treats are used that matters, and there is really no better way for the average person to train the average dog than with treats.
              "Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." ~Mal, Firefly

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by wendy View Post
                well, think about it. Your horses don't work "for you", they work because if they don't you'll whip, kick, chain-shank, or otherwise punish them. Really. Think about it some more. Most horse-training involves a lot of physical punishment, psychological intimidation, and physical restraints.

                Practically everyone who says "I want my dog to do X because I said so" or "I want my dog to work FOR ME" don't seem to notice that they almost always end up using punishments, so the dog is actually working to avoid punishments- which can vary from anything from a disapproving tone of voice to some kind of collar correction to outright abuse like hitting and kicking.

                The bottom line is NOBODY works for NOTHING. Not dogs, not people, not horses. There is a motivation there somewhere. It might be a complicated, multi-layered motivation, but it's there (why do you obey your mom? is a useful exercise to think about. Once you're an adult it's mostly habit, which is why most trained dogs/horses obey, but there's something else there: she'll whine at you and irritate you until you do it? your dad will come over and swat you if you don't? you enjoy the feelings you get when she smiles at you?).

                Now on the other hand, treats/food ARE the second-most incorrectly used training tool ever invented (the word NO being the first most incorrectly used). If the dog won't obey unless you show the dog your hotdog first, you have totally messed up your training. Doesn't mean the "tool" is a bad tool, just that you used it wrong.

                Also if you're doing "positive reinforcement" type training, and you ONLY use food, you're not using your full set of possible tools. You can and should use "environmental rewards", praise, toys, games, petting, and food, or well, anything the dog wants can and should be used to train the dog.

                There's a lot of science and sophisticated theory behind modern training techniques. I suggest starting out by reading Karen Pyror's book "Don't shoot the dog". It won't teach you how to train, but it'll explain in clear language the theory behind the methods.

                The good trainers all use this theory behind their techniques even if they don't realize it.

                And even the most scatter-brained food-motivated dog can magically turn into a dog that appears to be "working FOR YOU" using these techniques, and yes, using food, if you do it right. You can start out with food and end up with a dog who will focus and obey with every appearance enjoyment even if you forget to bring any treats along.


                ah, but what you don't realize is that dog you see running was probably trained using thousands of treats (and/or toys). The tool was used, the training was accomplished, the food is faded out.


                I've always thought trainers who were "opposed" to any particular tool for some grand philosophical reason were kind of short-sighted. Especially food. Most dogs are a snap to train with food; you can rapidly teach them what you want, and fade out the food. If you'd instead have insisted on training them with praise, or collar-corrections, it'll take much longer and you won't get as good results. And it doesn't matter what "tool" you use to train with, you have to fade it out.
                If your dog won't work unless you have a leash and a prong collar on him how is that any different than a dog who won't work unless you show him the tennis ball or the hotdogs first? bad training technique, not bad training tool.
                Yes, exactly!!
                Founder & President, Dapplebay, Inc.
                Creative Director, Equestrian Culture Magazine
                Take us to print!

                Comment


                • #9
                  We're training a young BC mix right now and what Wendy says is very true. Nobody works for nothing, but the "reward" doesn't necessarily have to be a paycheck (or food!). BC mix is NOT food motivated, she really doesn't care much about food and treats. She LIVES for approval and attention, so that's the big motivator. She thrives on a cuddle, some play time, a "yes" or, even, looking her in the eye, she really likes that, she'll look up at us for approval and if we return the look in a friendly way, she's ecstatic. She lives to please and work and have something to do, she's a piece of cake for training (except for the "accidental" training that happens, because she is ALWAYS looking for cue in everything we do).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I don't think that using food is a bad thing - it is all in gradually fading it away. Most trainers want a dog to be food motivated - frankly it is a little harder when the dog isn't food motivated. At first, you're going to use more food. As the dog "gets it," you use less food. I think everyone has seen dogs that will not do anything if they don't see a treat. Obviously that isn't the goal - you want the dog to do whatever it is in hopes that you have a treat. So at first the dog might get a treat after every sit. Once the dog has it, you're going to give him the treat after 2 sits, and then gradually you work up to an entire exercise. If you have a dog that is more toy motivated, then you're going to use the toy after every sit at first, and then gradually fade it out so that you can get through an exercise and then play with the toy.
                    When you are watching an agility dog at a competition, you're seeing the finished product - not everything that went into it. Many were probably trained using some food, but they are up to a level when they don't need it all of the time. The focus that they have is the product of a lot of work on attention to the handler - and some of that work uses food. It is a lot of work, and to be honest some breeds aren't really bred to pay that close of attention to a handler so for them it can be a ton of work and never quite as perfect.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Our dog does not work for food. She is motivated and her reward is approval.

                      Also, "Most horse training involves a lot of physical punishment, psychological intimidation and physical restraint" -- what exactly is meant by this -- it is completely opposite anything I've ever believed in. (Ha - perhaps that explains my inadequacies).
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                        Our dog does not work for food. She is motivated and her reward is approval.

                        Also, "Most horse training involves a lot of physical punishment, psychological intimidation and physical restraint" -- what exactly is meant by this -- it is completely opposite anything I've ever believed in. (Ha - perhaps that explains my inadequacies).
                        have you ever put a chain over the nose of a horse? If so that's what she was talking about. If you used it, then it's physical punishment. If you put it over the nose again, but did not use it, it was the threat of using it. How many times here have you heard "get bigger and act meaner"? Psychological intimidation.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                          Our dog does not work for food. She is motivated and her reward is approval.
                          glad she works for you for that, some dogs won't. Many times those are the breeds labeled "stubborn" or "stupid".

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by threedogpack View Post
                            glad she works for you for that, some dogs won't. Many times those are the breeds labeled "stubborn" or "stupid".
                            I think my dogs would consider a dog that doesn't work for food to be the stupid one. "What are you, stupid or something?? She's got FOOD!!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'm going to preface this post with I have a dog hat lives to work just for the sake of working. My views may or may not apply to a lower drive dog.

                              The way I look at training is that it's a game I'm playing with my dog. The one thing that I remember is when I'm going into the ring...the only thing I have is myself to motivate my dog. I make myself excited to be there and excited to work with my guy. Play with your dog while you're training. I blur the lines between work and play often with Lars and train in a way that he doesn't know we're training. I use tug toys often to keep myself engaged with my dog in between things we're working on. I play a lot with touch games in the obedience ring or other fun little doodle things to keep things fun and light.

                              Don't get me wrong that I don't use food. I do use it...but for exercises that Lars knows it is only presented at the end of what I wanted from him as a reward for something that he did correctly. I use food a lot as a reward for position like fronts, heeling, finishes. But, I'm not using it as a bribe or as a lure. I also used food with a clicker to teach him how to take and retrieve an obedience dumbbell. I used food and a clicker to teach him weave entries and contacts. But, once he understands what I'm asking him, the food is removed and only presented to my dog when it's a reward or I'm marking behavior I want.

                              I think the relationship people/handlers/etc have with their dogs in training is the most important. If you want your dog to "show up", you need to "show up" too. I see so many people in dog training that are so down on their dogs or so end result focused, they have taken the fun out of training their dogs. I think to myself all of the time - no wonder your dog won't work for you...I wouldn't want to work for you either, you grouch.

                              I don't know if you've ever heard of Denise Fenzi. I've been to a building drive seminar of hers a while back. She's got great ideas on motivating your dog to work and how to train in a way that it's fun for the dog. She's got a youtube channel with a bunch of videos of her working her own dogs. http://www.youtube.com/user/dfenzi?feature=watch#g/u Watch her videos and they might be able to give you ideas on how to make yourself more exciting for your dog. Oh yeah...I have to add. To see what I'm talking about that you are the only thing you have in the ring to motivate your dog. Watch Denise at the 2010 invitational...and see what she does and how she interacts with her dog after each finished exercise. That's what I'm talking about.
                              Last edited by EquusArtist; Dec. 12, 2011, 01:37 PM. Reason: forgot something
                              Equus2 Studios, Equine and Canine Fine Art

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Those are some nice videos to watch - thanks for the link!

                                I agree with a lot of what you said; I come into it with a dog who is low drive naturally, as well as low confidence, soft to the point of handicap, and a very non-traditional sport breed. Like you, I do very little luring with the food - I think it just makes it one more chore to have to wean them off the food down the road. I still do very heavy treat rewards, however, even with a dog who is competing at the masters level. Food has been the best way to give value to agility obstacles with her (or truly, to any behavior I want), and they don't maintain that value with my dog unless I keep building on it. I think it is very important to remember that there are very few hard and fast rules with dogs! I wanted a dog to go out and compete with in agility; my dog told me plain and clear what she needed to be that dog for me. With all she's given me, I have no qualms about hitting the dollar menu at McDonalds for her when I'm going to be putting her in a situation that she finds hard or scary, not matter how trained she is. She went from a dog who crept along the walls of the house in terror to a dog who can walk into 6000 seat arena with 3 rings going and do her job. Whether it is her desire to work with me, the value of an a-frame, or the assurance she has that there *will* be Nutter Butters in her treat bag at the end of the course - I'm way past caring about that!

                                My puppy is a whole 'nother ball game, however! Zero fear, drive out the wazoo, and bred, albeit unintentionally, to be a sport person's dream. I will probably have a completely different viewpoint to share as I keep learning from him! Just like with his big sister, I will let him tell me what he needs me to do, for him to become what I want him to be.
                                "Well, my days of not taking you seriously are certainly coming to a middle." ~Mal, Firefly

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Denise Fenzi is da bomb. She's an outstanding trainer with a complete knowledge of both dogs in general and operant conditioning specifically.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Watch the DVD Crate games. It's all about creating focus and drive. That said, I have put performance titles on all three corgis. None of the girls are toy motivated, but will work for food. We fade the food early as our end goal is agility and we really want them not looking for reward until the end. Go to an agility trial and you'll see almost all the dogs there turn and look towards the sound of a packet of string cheese being opened.

                                    The whole secret for me is that while I use food as a reward, it's given at somewhat random intervals.

                                    Comment

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