People have different ideas when it comes to training their dogs to do commands. While many prefer a hands on approach (called compulsion), others give treats as a reward for the dog’s appropriate actions (inducement). So, is one better than the other? What is the correct things to do? The answer is both. What I will show you is how you can train your dog with treats without spoiling them and having them hold you hostage with treat training.

You have likely known people who gave their dog a treat every single time the dog performed a certain action such as a “sit” or a “stay”. Is this necessary for your pet to to perform the action you desire? Not at all.

Many dog trainers will even tell you that using inducement methods(treat training) is not good because your pet will not perform without the food treats. They will say the only good way to train your dog, is by using some force in getting your dog to do a command, such as pressing firmly on the butt for a sit, or yanking the leash on the collar for a down. The reason they say this is because the trainer does not know the full training process of teaching with food.

Dogs are much smarter than many people think and they can be weaned off food treats while still performing the commands you want them to do. Also remember, you are the owner and leader, they are the pet. You train your dog, not vice versa.

The hands on approach (inducement) to training does work, but it isn’t the only method that is effective. In fact you can get quick results by implementing both hands on shaping and dog treats to train your dog. You can train your dog to sit, stay, roll over or whatever you want him to do in a relatively short time if you use the methods in a consistent way.

So just how do you wean your dog from food treats while still getting the action you want from him? It’s very easy. Follow these steps and your dog will be performing without food incentives in no time. This is called variable treating and here is how it works:

  • Once your dog is successfully performing the behavior you want, start limiting the dogs treats to every other time. Then you reward every third time, fourth time, etc until your dog is performing without treats.
  • One mistake many people make with dog training is having the food treat in their hand. This actually causes the dog to equate performing the behavior with the fact that you have a food treat in your hand. You can train your dog to respond to the action of your hand (i.e. hand signal for the sit or down command) and not the food by leaving the treats in a plastic bag or somewhere else other than in your hand(treat bag on your belt or waist).
  • Reward your dog with treats each time you shape a new behavior. Then once you can anticipate the behavior will happen, begin using verbal commands and hand signals. The most important step is to remember to use variable treating, lessening the frequency of treats when your pet performs as expected. Say good boy, or good dog in place of the food treat. Be sure to use a higher pitched happy voice to praise.

Dogs are very intelligent creatures and can be taught to perform and behave easily, When it comes to training with or without food treats, opinions are divided. In my opinion, do it the correct way and you will get the results you want.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your dog as you are the teacher of your children, and remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

(C) Jim Burwell 2010