Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
A. No. In most situations, once your dog understands a behavior, you will not need to carry treats on you 24 hours a day to get him to respond. While the rewards associated with a behavior should be continued in order for the behavior to remain consistent, the rewards themselves can be varied. In fact, it’s important not to create a reliance on treats when training a new behavior.
Animals form associations between actions and consequences; this influences the frequency of certain behaviors. For instance, a friendly puppy may sit calmly at his owner’s side when a visitor approaches. If the visitor reaches down and pets the puppy while he’s sitting, calm behavior has been rewarded and is likely to recur. On the other hand, if the visitor approaches and the puppy sits calmly at his owner’s side and is ignored, the puppy may get antsy when he doesn’t get attention. In frustration, the puppy may bark. When he barks, the visitor — or the owner — may reach down and pet the puppy. This teaches the puppy that sitting quietly doesn’t work to get attention, but barking does, and he may sit less and bark more in the future.
Since your dog is constantly learning, it’s important to reward desired behavior when it occurs. It’s also important to be aware of whether the behavior you desire in your dog is rewarding enough in itself. If you teach a sit using treats, the treats can be faded once your dog understands the behavior. Yet for the behavior to remain consistent, positive results must follow the sit frequently enough to make it worth the dog’s effort. For instance, if your dog gets excited when you come in the house and you ask him to sit, you should follow through with something the dog desires, such as petting or tossing a toy. You can also offer the occasional treat, but you shouldn’t feel like that is your only option.
I train dog owners not to bribe a
dog to do a behavior, like a
come when called, by showing the dog they have a treat in their hand. When dogs are trained like this, they learn to respond only when they see a treat. Instead, the
dog should be trained to do the behavior first and then get a treat hidden in a treat jar or treat bag. The dog should also regularly be rewarded with a nonfood option, like a game of
Once your dog learns a behavior, he can be put on a variable reinforcement schedule to get him to respond reliably. I also use rewards other than treats; a dog can be rewarded for heeling by being released to walk on a loose leash, for example, rather than with a dog biscuit. Other reward options are petting, games, going outside, walks, doggy play and
In situations where your dog’s emotions are intense — such as when he is experiencing fear or excitement — the use of food rewards can be useful to help him calm down. Once he is calm, though, you can phase out the food reward and offer another alternative for good behavior.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Thank you for subscribing to Petwire. Look for the latest newsletter each Wednesday.
Charlie beat out 1,612 dogs from 175
breeds and varieties to take home the
prestigious Best in Show title.
Shadow, a pregnant Lab-Terrier mix,
woke up her family when a fire started
near a space heater in their home.
This command can be a useful training
strategy for owners whose kitties are
always underfoot or jumping on counters.
A little bit of caution and preparedness
will go a long way toward helping to keep
your pets safe through the…
When a dog suddenly starts vomiting at
Thanksgiving dinner, SuperVet comes to
the rescue... and for some turkey.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect
on what you love most about your cat —
and to show her some affection…
Before sharing leftover turkey or mashed
potatoes, find out if your favorite holiday
eats are safe or dangerous for…
The Bombay may look like a jaguar, but he’s much more easygoing and laid back than his wild doppelgänger.
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.