Why Treats Don't Always Work - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 11:33 AM Thread Starter
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Why Treats Don't Always Work

I am in the habit of using treats to train my dog to do the basic obedience routine for schutzhund/IPO. The downside of this is you cannot use treats/rewards during a trial. If the dog is only focusing on you to get the reward, HOW do you keep its focus without the reward??

Lightbulb moment after reading Monique Anstee's blog!! (Monique is on the Canadian schutzhund team, and competed in the WUSV championships in Holland this past fall.)

The Naughty Dogge

My friend’s son struggled with reading, despite her fabulous parenting. Reading was difficult for him, which removed all of his motivation. Picking up a book made him anxious, not happy.

We cleverly put him on a positive reinforcement schedule, where each reading got him a prize. It worked like a hot ****, and he turned into a reading machine. However, there was a giant consequence that neither of us had anticipated. He developed no love for reading, and we had taught him to speed read to cash out for his prize. He was reading only for the end result of the prize, and not for the reading. We had failed to teach him the enjoyment of the book itself. We were trapped; prizes had gotten him reading, but as soon as we removed the prizes, his reading would be gone. His behavior was temporary and dependent upon the reward.

This happens when we are training our dogs too. My brilliant German friends realized this concept with their dogs, and while of course they are training with positive reinforcement, the emphasis and the entire success of their training program is based on the emotions before the reward, that happen during great work. If we only work for a prize, the love of the work gets lost along the way. However, if we can build up the dog’s emotions for the work – the work itself will become the reward.

My friend and I quickly realized this too. With her son, before any reward was given, she told him how clever he was, and asked questions about his work that he was able to answer. His pride was built by his mother’s excitement with how clever he was. He received feedback and realized reading made her proud, and she believed him to be very clever. Once she had developed pride in him for his reading, it was easy to remove the prizes and maintain the reading. He continues to be an avid reader and now reads to his younger brother every day.

I frequently talk about the flaws of positive reinforcement. Everything in life has flaws. It doesn’t mean the method is wrong. Positive Reinforcement must be used to train dogs and is the best way to teach any behaviour. The good news is this flaw can be worked around.
We can put pride and joy into our dog's work by simply being happy with them, and telling them that. Step one is always making sure you genuinely tell them when you are happy with them – by speaking from your heart.

Many people have no idea how to talk to their dogs. Often our talk is demeaning to them. We talk down like they are weak babies. Or we get shrill, in an over-excited cheer-leader voice that also indicates they are weak. Pride and Joy are not reflected by increased volume or pitch. Try using your voice to express different emotions, and see if your dog believes you. You will know by watching their tail rise and starting to get higher and higher.

Getting more work-ethic from your dog, by using emotions to make them proud of their own work, while a very easy concept to understand, can be a challenge to execute. We are forced to control our voices and mental place in our heads. Most people train with one tone of voice only, but this method is going to force you to come up with many. However, once you learn it, you will have unearthed a secret that will make every dog (and child) in your life adore you, and want to please you.

Monique Anstee
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 12:36 PM
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As much of a food pig as Sabi was, treats didn't cut it. She may perform for a treat, once, only once. And this was a dog that would eat the fridge if she could.
She needed to be doing something that she loved, because food would only motivate her until she figured out it was a bribe.
They are not as stupid as we like to think.
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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 01:59 PM
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What she's describing is positive reinforcement utilized correctly. The main flaw is that many people don't know how to do it right, not that the method itself is inherently flawed.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 02:09 PM
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Work is Play - Play is Work. ~ 2015 WUSV Champion

Not a hard concept to understand.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax08 View Post
Work is Play - Play is Work. ~ 2015 WUSV Champion

Not a hard concept to understand.
Same as what Monique is saying here: However, if we can build up the dog’s emotions for the work – the work itself will become the reward.

I look at it this way: there is still a reward, but it is now my voice telling the dog how proud I am of him/her.
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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 03:22 PM
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I think we also need to be careful that the reinforcer, be if food or toys, not become the cue for the behavior. I see a lot of "my puppy/dog" doesn't listen if I don't have food, which then frustrates people and often leads to punishment because they think the dog is being stubborn, disobedient, ect. When actually the reinforcer has become part of the cue for a behavior, not just the verbal cue alone, and when that isn't part of the picture the dog doesn't actually know what to do. Dogs aren't verbal creatures, so physicals cue often are more important than verbals, which gets us into trouble when we don't realize they are there.

Also praise does not mean a lot to most dogs right out if the gate. A new puppy or dog often won't work or give their best work for praise alone. You need to have a strong enough bond with your dog that praise is actually rewarding to them. I remember when Finn was a puppy, praise was not something he would work for. As he matured though my praising him did become a lot more rewarding for him and something he enjoyed.
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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 03:39 PM
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The problem isn't the theory. It's that people fail to fade out the lure in a timely fashion. I never take the reward away. Why would I? I don't return to work on Monday if I wasn't paid on Friday. You do vary when you reward. You extend the period between the reward. You test the results without the reward but if you take it away fully, all the time, your performance will go down. You vary the reward. Toys, treats, or play with you. But there is always a reward. I have not seen a single high level competitor that only rewarded with their voice all the time.

Train Train Train...Test...Train Train Train
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 03:56 PM
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And as an aside....you can't use your voice in trial either so whatever you use, you still need to fade out and test.

Thus...

Work is Play and Play is Work. Make it play and the dog will work for it.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 04:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jax08 View Post
The problem isn't the theory. It's that people fail to fade out the lure in a timely fashion. I never take the reward away. Why would I? I don't return to work on Monday if I wasn't paid on Friday. You do vary when you reward. You extend the period between the reward. You test the results without the reward but if you take it away fully, all the time, your performance will go down. You vary the reward. Toys, treats, or play with you. But there is always a reward. I have not seen a single high level competitor that only rewarded with their voice all the time.

Train Train Train...Test...Train Train Train
This is 100% how I have been taught and how I implement.

In fact that last line is almost identical to something I was told by an AKC judge about tracking.
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 11-22-2017, 04:02 PM
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And as an aside....you can't use your voice in trial either so whatever you use, you still need to fade out and test.

Thus...

Work is Play and Play is Work. Make it play and the dog will work for it.
Yes, yes, yes.

My dog seems to feel happy when we even start to practice. My impression is that the behavior itself is rewarding to the dog now because he associates it with play. To a certain extent I think tracking is just self rewarding to him period, so the bigger work there is on article indication.
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