Won't obey without treats
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  1. #1
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    Won't obey without treats

    My dog drives me nuts!!! He is a border collie, lab, pit bull mix. I didn't take him to dog training classes because he learned EVERYTHING within two weeks of me getting him at 6 months, completely untrained from a rescue agency (he had lived his entire life in a kennel). And then we started working on generalizing by withdrawing the treats and alternating with praise. The thing is, he now basically will NOT learn anything new, it's as if he has decided that being trained is just not his thing, and he will not do anything unless he has reason to believe he's getting a treat (my hand is in my pocket or he actually sees a treat). He will NOT do anything for praise either.

    Should I take him to doggie school? Can it help with generalization? Getting him to do something in other settings is basically a joke? Or do I have unrealistic expectations and need to carry cheerios everywhere with me (what I use for training treats because everything else gives him gas!)

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    Senior Member Durbkat's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Well I don't mean to be rude but you may have made a mistake by giving him a treat everytime he did a trick. This is not to say this can't be fixed, yes I think obeidence school will help.


  4. #3
    Senior Member TooneyDogs's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    How and when to reward with treats is one of the foundations of obedience training. They also teach you how to replace, without completely eliminating, the use of treats with praise and how to teach your dog to wait for delayed rewards.

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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    I did it "by the book" --I didn't reward him everytime! After about a month of obeying with occassional treats (I'm serious, it was AMAZING friends and family were so impressed by this dog!(- he just quit! And now, he totally LOOKS for cues for a treat. No evidence of treat- no obedience. Moreover, sometimes he'll learn a "trick" once- just as if to show he can do it, but then, nope, he won't do it again.

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    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Start by changing up your routine- sometimes the treats should be in your pocket, sometimes on a table, sometimes, ask him for a sit or other behavior while you're standing in front of the fridge, and reward compliance with something from the fridge. Initially? Have treats in your pocket, but get the treats from elsewhere (and carry boring ones- like cheerios- in your pockets, and have GOOD stuff in a bowl on the table out of sight.) Then vary the routine a little more- ask for a sit, then a down, then treat with a treat from your hand. Then sit, down (I picked those two behaviors because most trainers teach them- and practice them- in sequence at least some of the time) (treat visible in hand) and reward with a treat from a bowl on the table. Before removing the treats entirely, you need him to realize that the treats don't ONLY come from your pocket.

    I think there's also an article on either Clickersolutions.com or ClickL.com about how to get yourdog onto a variable reinforcement schedule, which is what you need. Check there for more info.

  7. #6
    Super Moderator Curbside Prophet's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    How quickly do you get frustrated with this? Perhaps (and this is just a point of comment) you are getting too frustrated too quickly and the training isn't fun for him. In which case, I would withdraw all attention all together. When common rewards aren't working I go to an all or nothing approach. Either the dog gives my all his/her attention or they get none of mine. Yes, this does mean you may have to wait it out, and no, it's not a quick fix, but part of building a relationship with the dog is keeping training fun, and rewarding the dog when he/she offers the behaviors or attention on his/her own.

  8. #7
    Senior Member Alpha's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Well the fact that you say he WILL work for a treat shows that perhaps your not trying hard enough, or being creative enough to keep training time fun

    As Dogstar said, you need to put him on a reward schedule. Switch it up ALL the time!

    You can have the food in your hand, ask for sit,treat , down, treat, come treat, sit, no treat. I would start phasing in praise, FUN praise! Not boring, "Good boy...", by FUN PRAISE, I mean, whooping and hollering and rough pats, running if that's fun for him! MAKE A BIG DEAL!

    So eventually your praise, means the same thing as treat. Similar to clicking/treat, your treat/praising. Just making praise another reward marker for your dog, so if a treat isn't around, praise is just as good.

    Dogs go through so many learning curves it can be frusterating. One day, they'll do everything perfectly, then the next, look at you like your crazy! You just need to be patient and work through them.

    Also, you need to gradually increase distrations. Because he's sit staying well at home in the kitchen doesn't mean you should expect him to do it at a stop light, with cars, other people and dogs and all sorts of crazy noises. YOu need to slowly introduce distractions, taking a step back everytime, going back to heavily rewarding and "babying" him through the excercise/command.

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    Senior Member poodleholic's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Another factor may be the age - adolescense can be a PITA because it appears as though the dog has forgotten everything, or just won't respond to cues, period. He's pushing your buttons, checking boundaries, and if you're getting upset with him, you just blew it!

    Training needs to be fun. It needs to be kept brief. And the handler needs to keep his cool. If you're feeling frustrated, stop and walk away. This is not the frame of mind to be in when training. It won't work, and you'll drive your dog and yourself nuts.

    Dogs do not generalize. They may know sit in the house, but not out in the park. When the dog gets the cue correct in the house, then proof the behavior in another location.

    Training classes would be good for you both. It will help in socializing your dog with other dogs, and a group class can be lots of fun.
    Last edited by poodleholic; 08-16-2007 at 01:32 AM.

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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    I gave treats for potty for a year as she does real well with treat rewards. In time she got to where she did not seem to expect the treat so I stopped.
    A friend who has the same breed and just occasionally did the treat still has accidents so if treats work I don't care I am getting the behavior I want and she is getting what she wants. Everyone sees it their way but it works for me

  11. #10
    Senior Member Dogstar's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    I'll be honest I don't bother phasing praise in and treats out- but for most of the dogs I work with (and I suspect this largely related to the difference between my bratty corgi and Alpha's bullygirl) praise just isn't all that reinforcing- it's fine as an intermittant low-level reinforcer (It ranks between cheerios and pieces of apples on Indy's Scale O Treaty Goodness, if you were curious :P. Cheese is at the top, followed by dehydrated liver.), but it's NOT going to take the place of food in any way, shape or form. Once I start asking for multiple behaviors between treats, I phase out ALL reinforcers- I don't go to a lower-value one, and then nothing. In my experience (with my "What's in it for me" dog :P) if I do it that way, Indy gets annoyed "You want me to do MORE of this stuff for a crappier reward? Forget it!" but if I mix it up- this time no reinforcer but the release word, then a medium-value reinfocer (say a piece of pretzel), then three more reps of the behavior, then a piece of cheese, then two, then a cheerio, etc.
    Last edited by Dogstar; 08-16-2007 at 05:41 AM.

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    Senior Member poodleholic's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Quote Originally Posted by Dogstar View Post
    I'll be honest I don't bother phasing praise in and treats out- but for most of the dogs I work with (and I suspect this largely related to the difference between my bratty corgi and Alpha's bullygirl) praise just isn't all that reinforcing- it's fine as an intermittant low-level reinforcer (It ranks between cheerios and pieces of apples on Indy's Scale O Treaty Goodness, if you were curious :P. Cheese is at the top, followed by dehydrated liver.), but it's NOT going to take the place of food in any way, shape or form. Once I start asking for multiple behaviors between treats, I phase out ALL reinforcers- I don't go to a lower-value one, and then nothing. In my experience (with my "What's in it for me" dog :P) if I do it that way, Indy gets annoyed "You want me to do MORE of this stuff for a crappier reward? Forget it!" but if I mix it up- this time no reinforcer but the release word, then a medium-value reinfocer (say a piece of pretzel), then three more reps of the behavior, then a piece of cheese, then two, then a cheerio, etc.

    When I began training Maddy (Standard Poodle), I didn't use food treats, but I did use her love of play - so used toys and played games, like fetch and search and find, throwing a party with lots of loud praise and GO MADDY! YAY! LOL Later, I began using food treats along with the clicker, and wow! Engage her brain and she's one happy Poodle!

    Bottom line, dogs need paychecks for work done, too!

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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Thanks so much! So much good advice here! I'm going to have to read it all TWICE!!!

    What does frustrate me is I feel like my dog is my intellectual match-- I'm definitely more of a cat person and I will openly admit I have had to learn so much about dogs!!!

    I am thinking about hiring a dog trainer to work with me instead of a class. I know it would be $$$ but this dog is just crazy sometimes!

  14. #13
    Senior Member poohlp's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    I think some dogs are too smart for their own good. My dog would jump over the moon if you asked him to with a treat in your hand/pocket/general vicinity. But ask him to do anything when he knew there wasn't one and he would have none of it. When I successfully trained him, there was not a treat in sight - but there was lots of praise and properly applied correction when necessary.

    A private trainer can be very helpful, especially if your dog is stubborn, easily distracted or has a lot of problem behaviors that would only really manifest in the home (like mine!). Whether you ultimately use treats or not, a good one will train both you and the dog. Mine was totally worth the money -- and I don't have a lot. If your dog was a rescue, often your shelter or humane sociaty can recommend one. Mine even offered a $10 a lesson discount to shelter adoptees.

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    Senior Member TooneyDogs's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    There seems to be a missunderstanding on this thread about what praise is and how it is used in training. Praise is how we tell our dog that he just did something right...something we asked him to do. We say; "Yes!" or "Good job!" or "Nice Work"! When we consistently fail to tell the dog he just did something right, we open the door to a multitude of training mistakes. I know that giving positive feedback like, "Nice Job!" is hard for new handlers but, learning to do it correctly and in a timely manner pays huge rewards in the dog/human relationship.

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    Senior Member poodleholic's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Quote Originally Posted by TooneyDogs View Post
    There seems to be a missunderstanding on this thread about what praise is and how it is used in training. Praise is how we tell our dog that he just did something right...something we asked him to do. We say; "Yes!" or "Good job!" or "Nice Work"! When we consistently fail to tell the dog he just did something right, we open the door to a multitude of training mistakes. I know that giving positive feedback like, "Nice Job!" is hard for new handlers but, learning to do it correctly and in a timely manner pays huge rewards in the dog/human relationship.

    So true. What is also often overlooked is to praise and reward the dog when you catch him doing something you like . . .like not jumping up on you when you enter a room, or sitting quietly at your feet, or laying down contentedly chewing a bone/Kong, etc.

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    Senior Member Dakota Spirit's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Quote Originally Posted by poodleholic View Post
    So true. What is also often overlooked is to praise and reward the dog when you catch him doing something you like . . .like not jumping up on you when you enter a room, or sitting quietly at your feet, or laying down contentedly chewing a bone/Kong, etc.
    -nods- I agree. Often once the training is done owners forget the dog still needs to know he is doing a good job every once in awhile .

    The way I work with Dakota is to use both treats and praise in the same session. She does respond better for food rewards but I don't want to be stranded with an unruly dog just because I don't have a treat in my pocket . I suspect she smells the treats in my hand and believes thatís whatís coming for a job well done - but when the reward is praise instead it still gets enforced. Also at the end of the session when there is no more food bits I have her do the command a couple more times for praise, just to concrete the idea.



    Dakota - 12 year old female Rat Terrier l Tristan - 2 year old male Border Collie/McNab

  18. #17
    Senior Member LoveLilly's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    We have a combination of rewards: food, praise and hugs/belly rubs. she has her belligerant moments where she will not listen to me but for the most part I have mixed up the rewards so she never knows what is coming sometimes. it works well

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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    I seem to be having the same problem. Mine won't do anything I want unless she sees a treat in my hand so I must be doing something wrong (or she has trained me).

    And praise doesnt' do much. It is almost as if she could care less whether I was happy with her.....oh dear...I need help...LOL

  20. #19
    Junior Member Portiparent's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Dogs are not usually motivated by praise. Some may seem like they like it, but that's usually because they understand that when we are excited about something that they have done and we have "praised" them, a cookie has been given. They understand that they don't get a cookie when we are angry. Treats need to be given in any behavior new behavior that is being learned. After they are reliably doing the behavior, sometimes they get the treat, sometimes they don't or maybe they play or go for a walk instead. People get so nervous about feeding their dogs while training, but I always say.....I don't like to work for free

  21. #20
    Senior Member Alpha's Avatar
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    Re: Won't obey without treats

    Portiparent, your right. Typically most dogs don't care for praise. What is praise to a dog?

    I use praise often, a lot, and if I don't have a treat, when my dog does a good spot it comes in awful handy.

    I look at it the same way as you

    What is a clicker to a dog? Nothing at all. But it's the CHARGE you put behind that click that makes it a useful tool. I do the same thing with my praise. I charge my praise to mean "YES! YOU DID WHAT I WANTED! FUN TIME!".

    So for the times I see great behaviours I want to see again, but don't have a food reward, praise comes in awful handy.

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