Treats vs. Praise vs. Clicker? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-09-2011, 11:29 PM Thread Starter
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Treats vs. Praise vs. Clicker?

What do you think is the best reinforcement to train a GSD, and why? I didn't see another thread like this, but if there is one, feel free to direct me.

I'm about to get my first shepherd puppy and am definitely looking into training him well. He's only five weeks so I have time to prepare. I am planning on taking him to obedience classes, but not until he's older. In the meantime, I want to work on basic commands (sit, stay, off, lay down, leave it, not pulling on the leash, things like that). Aside from those commands, are there others that you taught your puppy? Is "heel" too complicated for a young pup? (I guess I have a few more questions than just "which training method" )

I have always heard that sheperds respond best to praise, being that they are working dogs and strive to please you. However, I've noticed most of you prefer using treats, and a good amount of you use clickers. Why is that? What do you feel the benefits are of your preferred method of training?

Note: I am not undermining the different methods, I am simply trying to determine what route I will take for my pup! :]

Any and all input is greatly appreciated.
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post #2 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-09-2011, 11:37 PM
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I think the best thing is to see what your dog likes best. I used treats for Ozzy at first. He liked them, but they weren't very high in value. I moved up to praise and got better results from him. Now he almost never gets treats, simply for the fact that he doesn't really prefer them.

The thing he values MOST is his ball. He will do ANYTHING for his ball, and it's the tool I use to train him. I pair it with praise and I can probably train him to do anything with those two things. I'm pretty sure there are many dogs who wouldn't do jack for you with just a ball and praise. LOL

Just see what your pup likes.

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post #3 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 12:22 AM Thread Starter
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Yeah, I guess that should've been common sense, haha. Thanks though, that really does make a lot of sense! (go figure)

I think I just need to realize that training doesn't have to be such a strict science! I've just never really formally "trained" a dog before so it's all pretty new to me. (And I just realized I posted this in the wrong forum, duhhh) I'm so worried about doing something wrong, but I guess me and my Dallas will have to learn together.

We have two smaller dogs, but they have been pretty well-behaved from the get-go. No formal training, no sitting around for hours, they just kind of got the hang of everything themselves. Then again, small dogs don't really NEED as much training as a big gangly GSD pup
And my previous large dogs, we had when I was a young girl, so I wasn't too involved in their training.
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post #4 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 12:29 AM
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I did a lot of reading and research and watched a lot of videos and all kinds of things before I brought home Ozzy. I expected the whole puppy raising and training processes to be completely different than what they turned out to be. It was actually a lot easier than I thought it was going to be (thankfully!) Hopefully it will be for you too.
Everything that you read are just generalizations and help prepare you, but your pup is going to teach you just as much as you're going to teach him.

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post #5 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 12:37 AM Thread Starter
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That's exactly how I feel and exactly what I'm doing, haha! I'm glad it turned out well for you, I hope it does for me, too. Thanks You are definitely helping to ease my mind a bit, so it is much appreciated.

Dallas's parents seem extremely intelligent and they obey some pretty advanced commands, so hopefully he will be able to follow in their footsteps. Although, I do know that shepherd intelligence can definitely be a double-edged sword, sometimes!
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post #6 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 12:42 AM
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I started Madix out with clicker and treating. We were just discussing this at training today actually. The benefits of the clicker is the pup knows the treat will follow shortly and it's a very precise marker for when the correct behavior is done. It also helps to signal the handler when to treat and mark because the "correct" behavior has to be very clear in the mind before being able to click.

I then moved from clicker/treat to a verbal marker (because it's way easier than trying to remember a clicker all the time) and a toy - because my dog is more toy driven than treat driven and also, again, because it's way easier to have toys with me all the time than an endless supply of treats.
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post #7 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 12:46 AM
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Most dogs start off better with treats. Most love food, so it comes natural. Human food or better rewards are most satisfying and rewarding. Praise is a great bridge when you're fading food. Some dogs are motivated more by toys, so you'd have to use toys/play as a reward. The clicker is NOT a reward or motivator. It is a marker used in combination with food/treat/motivation for your dog to help it learn. I highly recommend starting with the clicker and treats for your pup. He'll learn quick.

As for what I taught my dog as a puppy- sit, down, stay(2-3mins), come, his name, off, leave it, drop it, bedtime (kennel command), high five, shake, other paw, and bang. All before 6 months old. Then I worked on more complex commands like finish, heel, german commands, spining, and fronting.

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post #8 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 12:58 AM
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Definitely depends on the individual dog. My favorite thing to train with is a ball on a string. My GSD loves treats, but I get more focus with a ball so I can work through distractions better. The ball also lasts a lot longer than a treat, and I can deliver the reward faster with a toy than with a treat. The only downside is when he's more focused on the ball instead of me, the ball giver, and his obedience ends up being a bit chaotic at first until I can get him into the right state of mind. I usually use treats when I'm in the beginning stages of teaching a behavior, then I switch to a ball to reinforce behavior and work through distractions.

My dog absolutely would not be able to be trained with praise alone. At obedience training, my dog was actually used as an example of dogs that don't respond to praise . I only use praise("good") as a verbal marker, the praise itself is not a reward.


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post #9 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 01:00 AM
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Threads about clicker training: German Shepherd Dog Forums - Search Results

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post #10 of 42 (permalink) Old 01-10-2011, 01:40 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cassidy's Mom View Post
Threads about clicker training: German Shepherd Dog Forums - Search Results
Thanks for that, I'm still getting used to how this forum is organized. Might I add that I saw your Halo in the sables pic thread... What an absolutely beautiful dog!!



Like I said, I am pretty new to any formal training so I didn't know the clicker was to be used in conjunction with something. I do like the idea that it's much more precise than anything else, so I think I'm going to start off with that. I can probably just keep one at home and one in my handbag for any on-the-go purposes. As for treats vs praise, I guess I'll have to experiment with both are there any brands of treats that you guys prefer? I do know what food guidelines to look for, for both puppies and adults, but I heard of a brand that is supposed to help out their hips & joints. Unfortunately, the name escapes me right now.

Thanks for all the replies so far, everyone!
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