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I have a 4 1/2 month old german shepherd. When I have treats he is the best dog. He will do anything under the sun, but when I dont have treats he could care less what i say. We go to obedience class that uses treats and positive reinforcement. is this normal at this age or is there something I am doing wrong?
 

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That is the chance you take using treats to train a dog. I don't know what to tell you to get her to respond. I don't use treats for basic commands.

The only time I ever use treats is for recall and heel training. For recall, they can't tell if you have a treat or not so they come anyway. For heel training it's just easier because both of you are in motion and they will follow you.

I wish I had some good advice for you.
 

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Once your pup knows the command you need to treat at random intervals -not after every single command. So ask for a sit then a down then treat then ask for a stand then treat ask for a sit down stand down treat ect ect keep them guessing and make it fun!
 

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Very simplified version:

You need to wean off of the treats. (But still give food rewards intermittently).

I generally start this by luring with food in hand, then next time lure with no food in hand (food in pocket)... "fake it." Immediately reward when dog performs the thing you have asked. Keep rewarding!
If the dog does not perform.... do not just reach and get out that treat.... break off, change positions and then try again.

Once the dog regularly does what is asked with no food in hand, then get the food out of your pocket and directly beside you. Repeat. Then move farther away from food.... but as soon as dog earns reward.... you and the dog run to the reward and dog gets it.
 

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Yep, wean off the treats.

Start by hiding them, then by keeping them within easy reach but not on your person (for example, in a jar on a shelf where you can run over and grab one to reward your dog for a performance well done). Markers, like clicks or verbal markers, indicate to your dog when a treat is coming, which buys you a little time to run over and grab the treat without confusing your dog about what exactly is earning the reward.

At the same time, build up alternate rewards: tug, ball tosses, a cued "jump for joy," tag with your hands, or whatever else your puppy enjoys. Some dogs take to this right away (and even prefer toys or play over food treats), while others need some practice and encouragement to think of play as fun. It's okay if your puppy doesn't go nuts for tug or tag right away -- just play and practice in short, lighthearted little sessions to build up your puppy's enjoyment. Then, when your dog is clearly enjoying them, use those as occasional reinforcers instead of treats.
 

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its worse when your dog doesnt like treats. lol, mine wont do anything outside even for steak, so I have to use general stuff like sniffing around, getting 3 more feet of leash, etc as reward. Try that. If you are in the yard, dont let him play til he does a trick, then release with a phrase (we say "go play") and then after a minute or two reel him back in, make him do something, re-release. That way everything is a reward
 

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I never use treats, at all. I tried using treats very early on, and I didn't like how nippy it made Abby (my GSD), so I stopped. She does her obedience for praise and affection (which I never run out of).
 

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I agree. Why make it tougher than it has to be.

Training with treats is great. Then you get to train them again without treats which isn't so great.

Just cut out the middleman from the beginning and use praise. I give Lisl a treat just because. I still tell her to sit because NILIF, but she doesn't mind, and she didn't learn to sit by me dangling a treat over her head while pushing her butt down.
 

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That is the chance you take using treats to train a dog. I don't know what to tell you to get her to respond. I don't use treats for basic commands.

The only time I ever use treats is for recall and heel training. For recall, they can't tell if you have a treat or not so they come anyway. For heel training it's just easier because both of you are in motion and they will follow you.

I wish I had some good advice for you.

Just as any training method positive only -treats only, compulsion based methods, any tools/equipment you use ect it can be done incorrectly.

Everything has the "chance" of not working when it is done incorrectly. Maybe it is not the method but how the individual is attempting the method.
 

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Using food rewards doesn't have to mean your dog won't listen without food. I've not really had problems with my dogs following commands with or without treats. It all depends on how the treats are used. If you use them only in a lure-reward fashion then your dog is unlikely to ever develop reliability. Unfortunately, that is about the extent of some trainers knowledge of the methods.

Often the problem with rewards comes from the trainer showing the dog a treat before every cue. Or reaching for a treat before every cue. Dogs are very perceptive to body cues, intentional or otherwise and when treats are used in this manner, they become part of the cue to perform. The same thing often happens with people bending of kneeling before calling their dog then when they try standing straight, their dog no longer responds to the command. Same with bending over to get the dog to lie down, try standing up and the dog no longer responds.

Another potential issue people have with reward based training is limiting their rewards to food only. Mix it up! Use food, toys, play and "life rewards" so your dog doesn't become too dependent on food being the only reward you provide. When I worked at a doggy daycare and Jagged was young, I taught him an extremely solid recall and stay using a release to play as the reward. In every day life my young dogs practice sit-stays every time they are released from a crate or go in or out doors or vehicles. No treats involved, the reward is being released to do something they want (if they don't hold their position, the door closes). I use chase-me games as a reward for my dogs pretty often too. Anything your dog wants is a potential reward and once you start using that in daily life, your dogs reliability will skyrocket.
 

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This is a 4.5 month old puppy and obedience is not solid at this point. Training is ongoing and so should the use of treats, until the dog knows the command 100%. I use treats and start fading them out at about 10 months or so and that is after 3 or 4 obedience classes. My dogs listen fine without treats, but they do love when a new dog comes in because they all get some training with treats:)
 

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+1 to everything AgileGSD and llombardo said.

I've never had to retrain anything to get my dogs to do desired behaviors "without treats." Teach, perfect, proof. You only have to go through the sequence once.
 

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Shadow would fetch the moon for treats if she could. At the pet store she'll sit patiently by the treat bowl that's just beyond reach for someone to give her one :p

Using a clicker has definitely been a good thing in combination with the treats instead of treats alone. I can click as a marker then fumble around in my pockets for treats as she waits. I also like using treats because it has helped teach her the proper method of using her mouth on my hands; in the beginning she gave me nips as she tried to find the treat in my hand and now she uses her mouth more delicately to find the treat instead of my flesh. I hope to get her to the point my Golden is at, where she'll sniff to find exactly where the treat is in my hand and then geeeeently lift it out before eating it.
 

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Right now we are doing a mix of treat and negative reinforcement training which seems to be working thus far. Treats as positive and when he does not do what is asked he has a consequence (tug on prong collar) to get him into the position he is suppose to be in followed by a treat for being in that position. He has started to become treat driven which is making the lay down and stay down command a little bit of a challenge. So now we are only giving him treats when he does it willingly now. If we have to force into lay he gets nothing but if we ask and he does it and stays in that position until next command we treat.
 

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This is a 4.5 month old puppy and obedience is not solid at this point. Training is ongoing and so should the use of treats, until the dog knows the command 100%. I use treats and start fading them out at about 10 months or so and that is after 3 or 4 obedience classes. My dogs listen fine without treats, but they do love when a new dog comes in because they all get some training with treats:)
(why would your dog be rewarded for the behavior of another dog???)
You fade out the treats when the dog performs the behavior 9 out of 10 times. This is dependent on skill and not on age. If you start fading out treats at 10 months you end up with just that problem.
Many trainers make the mistake of relying on treats way too long. I get clients from them who are at their wits end. The only thing that works then is to start at puppy 101 Dogs are so keen; they know if you have your hands in your pocket, there will be a reward so don't.
I have trained all my dogs with treats when they were young and for new behavior since the last 15 years and they have been the most obedient from all dogs I have had. And I don't have to use treats any longer. But still do once in a while, for fun but not to get them to perform. WD however has been corrected a few times in his land shark stage.
 

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(why would your dog be rewarded for the behavior of another dog???)
It sounds like the presence of another dog is being used as a cue to do redirect to the owner for some OB work for food, not that they are being rewarded for the behavior of the new dog. Nothing wrong with that, IMO!
 

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Training with treats is great. Then you get to train them again without treats which isn't so great.
:thinking: That hasn't been my experience either, I've never had to retrain anything without food. I start out by "capturing" behaviors I like and want to encourage when I get a new puppy - no command is given, (because I haven't taught them what anything means yet), I just mark and reward things like attention, laying down, and coming towards me. The more I reinforce these things, the more the puppy offers them up, and at that point I can start to put them on cue by naming the behaviors "watch", "down" and "come". I teach name recognition by saying it and giving a treat. I teach a "whiplash" head turn to their name, and make a game out of it by tossing a treat across the room and then just when they get to it, calling their name. I mark the second the head turns, (with a clicker or "yes"!) and the puppy flies back for another treat. Rinse/repeat. :)

I also lure, as gagsd describes, getting the food out of that hand as quickly as possible, and treating from the other hand. Once the puppy is reliably following an empty hand, I start to fade the movement to something more subtle and add a verbal cue right before I use the hand signal. I use a lot of happy and enthusiastic praise along with food rewards, and keep that up as I start to reduce the rate of reinforcement, and eventually phase out food rewards for that particular behavior.

The rate of reinforcement should be based on the difficultly and newness, if you will, of what you're trying to train. I also use a lot of real life rewards, as AgileGSD mentions, and I build that into every day life, requiring sits with eye contact for access to things they value. So a sit at home gets a "good girl!" or the door opens to let them out or in, or I put the food bowl on the floor, or a release to take the bully stick I'm holding, or whatever, but a sit on a busy street corner is more challenging because it's in a much more distracting environment, and I will up the rate of reinforcement temporarily, as needed.

If I'm training a new behavior, if I'm increasing difficultly for an old behavior by adding distance or distractions into the equation, or just working on generalizing learned behavior in a variety of circumstances, the rate of reinforcement goes up again. Once those behaviors become more reliable and generalized, I start to fade out the food rewards. Using a food lure too long, or keeping up the rate of reinforcement for longer than necessary by not moving to a random reinforcement schedule for learned behaviors can definitely backfire. The sight of food in your hand can become a secondary cue, and the expectation of being rewarded for every single instance and then suddenly stopping food rewards entirely can cause the dog to not want to work for you anymore. But those are errors of execution, not a failure of the technique itself.
 

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I see what Michael is saying. My GSD is much better about obedience than my corgi. My GSD is so worried about not pleasing me (he's soft) that he will obey no matter what the distraction, simply to please me(he of course gets rewarded for obeying).

My corgi? No way! He loves to play and please me and he loves his treats. BUT, if there is a higher value distraction around (kids playing across the street, a cat/squirrel running by) I am the LAST thing he *wants* to pay attention to. With him I have to have compulsion along with the reward. There are consequences for NOT listening to me (with Radar, my corgi, it's a pop-pop on his prong). He has to learn that when I say "platz," he has to go down(the most important obedience in my book).

Now, I am NOT saying put a prong on your PUPPY, but I don't think a small "pop-pop" on his flat collar to remind him, "hey, you have to listen," is a bad thing.

And just an anecdotal story, I met my first "positive-only" trained dog last weekend at training. The dog was four years old, hadn't ever seen any compulsion, only toys and treats. The dog *knew all kinds of obedience. But she was on a new field, and was WAY more interested in sniffing, than obeying. It was so obvious that this dog decided she had the choice to obey or not. She totally blew off her owner. He was exasperated, went on and on about how good she was at home and in her home-field, how he doesn't understand why she won't listen in a new place etc...

My TD had told me that she believed positive-only training only went so far, that it worked, but it took a LONG time, and wasn't very reliable (dog always believes it has a choice). I didn't fully believe her (I mean EVERYTHING is "positive this, positive, that, corrections are bad, compulsion isn't required, etc...").

But I totally SAW it with this dog. She had been training with a club for 3 years, positive only, no compulsion. She could def do everything he asked, but it was completely up to her and I wouldn't trust it at all (he didn't even trust it).

Now, I am NOT talking about beating the crap out of your dog. I have watched dogs all over the Northwest train in the last half year, police academies, schH clubs, AKC obedience, and it seems that the dogs that are the most RELIABLY trained, have seen a balance of compulsion and reward(balance is key). These dogs didn't all have the most amazing genetics (some obviously did), and they came from all walks of life (house dogs, police dogs, farm dogs, etc). It was obvious that obedience was CLEAR to them. They knew what they had to do, it could be trusted. They knew they were to obey, or get a correction, and always rewarded (at some point) with play and maybe treats. But the correction blocked the higher value distraction and cleared up the dog's mind("okay, I can't use that option, guess I need to obey").

TLDR, treat-only-training is great for some dogs (softer ones, in my experience). But of the dogs I have met (anecdotal of course) the only ones I saw reliable obedience with, there was compulsion/correction used, along with rewards. It's all about balance. For OP's dog, obviously VERY young, I would stick to very basic training, with tiny pop-pops for choosing to not listen and positive reinforcement when performed correctly (doesn't always have to be treat, I'd try toy and praise). Everything depends on the dog.
 
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