When Can I Stop Using Treats?

What did you get?

It’s always interesting to me people have no problem giving their dogs a completely free allowance, but then wonder to themselves how long will I have to keep paying their dog for his work?

Sit, heel and leaving a cool smell in the grass isn’t fun for 90 percent of dogs.
It’s work.

Pie is being reinforced less and less, but he is still preforming the behavior.

You like to get paid for work right? To dogs food has monetary value.

While we often want to think of our dogs as our “buddy”, how often do you expect your best friend to drop everything he is doing to heel or leave something that is as interesting as doggy video games at our demand?

Like it or not when it comes to obedience we have a working relationship with our dogs.

If we work at it we can create something that more like a partnership where we are working towards the same goals and both of us are equally motivated.

Okay, but enough philosophical blah blah…

How do you phase out food when you are training with food?

Let me break it down for you.
When you first start teaching a new behavior you reward every time.

You do until your dog can consistently perform the cue.

Once you have it here you can go from a vending machine to a slot machine.

Think about what happens when you put a dollar in a pop machine?

You expect a can of soda, but it doesn’t come. You might add another dollar, you might kick it and you might just leave.

If you do this for three day’s in a row you’ll probably stop going to the pop machine. Your dog will stop giving the behavior if you improperly quit your reward system.


Start to become this slot machine instead.

Reward 2 repetitions of the behavior and then don’t reward one for a session. Do this for a full session, then start to make it random. Reward 5, don’t reward 3, reward 1, don’t reward 5, reward 2 don’t reward 3. People aren’t good at being random, so try to keep a close eye on your results.

Once your dog is consistently not quitting and trusting that a reward will come if he gambles long enough you can start stretching it out even more! Don’t reward 8 reward 3. Don’t reward 10 reputations, reward 2 and so on.

Remember each induvial behavior has to be trained, distraction proof and have the rewards faded out on it’s own timeline, so just because you stop feeding ever sit won’t mean your dog is ready to be phased out in heeling.

Toys can make an excellent replacement for treats

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