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Training Without Treats?

3177 Views 31 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  LincolnGSD
i want to teach my dog things like drop it and leave it but he really doesnt care about treats at all, never known a dog like him just isnt bothered by food
his favourite toy is a ball on string, but im not sure how to incorporate that into his training

do i give it to him or throw it for him, how long does he get it for? these sort of things i cant find out about
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Toys are great for training in drive. However, when teaching new behaviors from the start, toys generally give you a much lower rate of reinforcement and a much greater time between repetitions. This makes the learning process go much slower and can make teachings some behaviors very difficult. Ideally, one would want to work towards a dog who find both treats and play/toys to be rewarding. Like I said, you can improve on on what you have as far as drive goes.

An example is that I introduce agility equipment and behaviors such as 2o2o using food. I need a higher rate of reinforcement and to work on more precision than just toys would allow. Once the dog is confident and consistent, my preference is to use a toy to reward. I also use the toy to teach weaves because it encourages more speed, drive and takes the focus off the handler.
I use treats AND toys the same way. Best to have both rewards in my bag of tricks. Tiny treats (real treats, real small, HUNGRY dog) can be rewarded fast, swallowed fast, and training can immediately continue so dog is still focused and learning.

I'm all about the toy because of the excitement and drive it can add for the training. But a rousing game of tug as a reward is a HUGE break in the training. As is throwing a ball out and away from me (and what we were working on).

So I use the treats (clicker too :) ) a ton when teaching the finer details and building on a new behavior. But once they get it, it's all about the toy/tugging to reward for a good behavior and to keep the dog interested in continuing the session. Nice rewarding break as a reward.

100% of the time when I've seen treats not work:

  • Dog isn't hungry (skip meal before training, 2 meal if that works better) you should be using tons of rewards so your dog isn't starving, and you feed normal meal AFTER the session
  • Handler uses low value treats (to the dog). Doesn't matter if I pay $20 for some great dog treat, if my dog isn't interested it's low value TO THEM. Generally my fridge and my food is WAY higher value to my dogs than anything in the dog food aisle/pet store. Hotdogs, sharp stinky cheese, liverwurst, MEAT and MEAT, tortellinis, pizza.....
  • Handers do not treat frequently enough. Using treats is FEEDBACK to our pups that they are brilliant! And if instead of using the treats constantly (in the beginning) so our pups learn to engage and keep trying cause a treat will come in a sec, we only reward a FINAL behavior every 3 or 4 minutes when WE think they FINALLY got it right. Heck, you rather get a paycheck every week or every other month!
Look how frequently this training is milking the treats out for her puppy, this is the ideal way to get our dogs used to the treats-as-reward. Once the puppy 'gets' it' then we don't have to use them as fast/frequent. But you only know they are 'getting it' when they ARE with your and jumping on you/at you/with you IF YOU ARE TREATING WITH REAL TREATS FREQUENTLY ENOUGH.

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Is it really that hard to give this member advice on training with a toy? :)

MRL, do you know of any videos that show training with a ball? OP has already stated that the basics are trained and is looking for a step above the basics. Thank you.
Both the videos I showed also have the handlers using toys. And if anyone would rather continue to only use a toy, WHEN and HOW you use it as a reward for a training behavior is exactly the same.

Only the training/learning is going to take vastly more time because playing with a toy, no matter what toy, if it's really going to be a clear reward, is going to take up more more of your training 'time' than the training.
I had a dog that didn't care about food or treats or toys as a youngster. I had to train her using only praise. She turned out to be the best dog ever. (She is dead now, so I do not have to worry about getting home to a big pile of rubble because I said that.)

Then one day she started enjoying toys, and when she was about four, treats became her favorite thing. So don't give up on treats, try to reintroduce them later on.
Think that was more what I was trying to hint about. Just because your dog currently doesn't like treats, doesn't necessarily mean they can NEVER be added to your training bag of tricks. Specially because much of the time changing how you use treats or WHAT you are using as treats can show an immediate spark of interest.

I'd have shown the exact same videos for a dog that refused to use a toy cause I think the more training tools we can use, the easier it is for our dogs and ourselves.
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