Wednesday, 10 February 2010

To treat or not to treat??

Lots of people dont treat their dogs - Ben thinks this is really sad.

Arguments against include
'If I treat then he will become too focused on me'
Fantastic!! Your dog is really motivated by food!! Now he just has to learn that he has to earn his treats. Try carrying food in your pocket and surprise your dog when he does something really good, he will learn that treats arrive out of nowhere if he is good.
'he should want to work for me'
None does something for nothing! Even if its only the fuzzy nice feeling it gives you when you do something nice for other people. Some dogs are more motivated than others, some find a pat on the head or a smile from you really rewarding, but still why not have a nice treat for extra special behaviours - its like a bonus at work, it tells them that that thing they did was really great
'I cant always be carrying treats about with me'
Well actually you can - but you dont need to. The amazing thing of training with rewards is the more a behaviour is rewarded then the more the dog actually enjoys just doing the behaviour. Mia gets fed in her crate, she gets lots of treats in her crate, and many times during the day she just goes into her crate because it is a really great place to be. So can be walking to heel, sitting when asked, recall, anything.
Also food isnt the only reward in the world. Anything your dog enjoys is a reward, so you can chuck a ball, pat on the head, play a chase game, send them to play with friends, these are all rewards too
'He will only do something if I have a treat in my hand'
If that is the case that is because you have not faded out the lure
Or your dog has learnt that he only ever gets a treat from you if he does something when you have a treat in your hand. Start hiding treats and surprising your dog with them, he will soon start working without the visual cue

'He isnt food motivated'
Yup that possible, but unlikely. Food is important to a dogs survival, if it dosent eat it wont live.
But if food is always lying about (If you free feed) and you just give out treats all the time for no reason then treats are not exciting.
Dogs actually enjoy having a job to do so build the importance of food, only feed at meal times, dont leave food lying about any other times and always ask for something before you feed them.
Get some really really high value treats, roast beef, chicken, cheese, or garlic sausage when your dog is hungry and reward it for simple behaviours, over time your dog will learn to love learning and food.

'I dont want a fat dog'
For me training treats are tiny! 1/2 the size of a fingernail or smaller. Compare that to a dog getting a huge bonio every night. Also you can use some of the dogs food, meals dont always have to come in a bowl! In the wild animals have to work for their food, they enjoy it in captivity.

'He should KNOW how to behave, why should I reward him for that?'

This one saddens me the most. People who assume dogs come fully trained and so anything they dont expect is the dog being bad and is punished
Sure the dog learns that way too - but its not really nice or fair

Dogs dont know how to live in our world, our rules are strange to them. Based on their personalities dogs just do what seems most sensible to them, then they see what happens. If something nice happens then they are more likely to do the thing again, if something bad happens then they are less likely to do it again.
I prefer not to punish as it isnt the dogs fault. But if your dog has been lying calm for 2 hours, playing happily with their toys for a while and you ignore them, then you only pay attention when they go to chew your shoe you have not only missed lots of chances to let your dog do the right thing you have also taught them that grabbing your shoe gets your attention and lying calm or playing with toys is ignored.


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