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We love our 5-mo.-old Max dearly, but a problem has surfaced of late. My wife is training him using treats, and they have good rapport and good results. But he's a big, strong guy (his dad is 100+ pounds) and loves treats. When she rewards behavior--stay, bring it, down, etc.--with a treat all is well, but when she doesn't reward with a treat he gets downright unruly, even lunging at the treat waistpack she wears, and refusing to come under control.

My instinct is to discontinue treat training, 'cause I've rarely used it in training my other dogs, but I hate to advise her to do so since the method seems to work well, until recently. And this is our first GSD.

Any and all advice welcome.

Cheers, Bernie
 

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Max is focused more on the treats than the the treat master.Heres a little trick that may or may not work immediately.Call Max to you with treat in hand,make sure he sits.Keep treat at nose level to him
and slowly bring treat to your nose making him focus on you/the treat then say" watch".The key here is to make sure the dog is focused on you not the treat.Treats are great in moderation but they must be weaned off sooner or later.Good luck and this must be repeated for a short duration to be effective consistently as GSD's are willing to learn if we let them.
 

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Re: Young Max wants the treats, more than the trai

Bernie, it's not the treats that are the problem, it's the method. If you've got a food crazy dawg (like mine!) you have a perfect opportunity to teach him that to get the food he must IGNORE the food and look at you, or your wife, as the case may be, instead.

There's a sticky thread about teaching focus here on the board, but basically you can start with a tiny treat, small enough that it can be pinched between your fingers. Show it to the dog, (you can hold it right in front of his face, or put your arm down by your side) but don't let him have it, just wait. At first he'll try and get it, but eventually he'll give up and look at you as if to figure out what the heck you're up to. Mark that EXACT second of eye contact, verbally - Yes!, or with a clicker, and give him the treat.

Once you can show him food and he immediately looks up at you, start holding out for longer eye contact - 2 seconds, then mark and treat, 5 seconds, etc. Eventually you'll be able to do what we do - take a bully stick, the most prized treat in our household, and the dogs immediately sit and look at me. I can wave my arms around and the dogs will continue to stare intently at my face because they know that if they look away before I decide to hand over the bully stick, they'll just have to wait longer before they get it.

I work on this from the time my dogs are young puppies, outside of training basic behaviors like sit and down, a few minutes at a time, several times a day. This will teach him self control around food. We do it at mealtimes too - they have to sit or down and wait with eye contact, food bowls on the floor, before being released to eat. That of course, takes some time to work up to, and at first I started so that it was really easy.

You can also do it with toys or balls if he's into those too. Dena LOVES chasing tennis balls, so I had her maintain eye contact while I bounced one off the ground (kinda tricky, you have to be able to see the ball in your peripheral vision so you can catch it) a couple of times, then released her and threw it as the reward. Start with one bounce and work up to more.

And hopefully when your wife is using treats as reward she's also praising him enthusiastically. Once a behavior is well established and generalized (he will immediately plant his butt on the floor at the "sit" command, no matter where he is in relation to her or where they are) she should be moving to a random reinforcement schedule. You can either just treat randomly (keep up the praise!), or use shaping where she would only reward the best responses - the fastest sit, the straightest sit, etc.

Generally, the rate of reinforcement needs to be related to the difficulty of the behavior and how well established it is. New or difficult - high, old or easy - can be low. Eventually she can phase out food rewards entirely for some behaviors, but the rate of reinforcement should always be increased under more challenging circumstances, such as high distractions or if you add a variation, like distance commands. For example, my dogs have known sit on command forever. I NEVER give them a reward for sitting around the house. But in a class setting or out on a walk with a million things going on all around them I will not only reward for sit, but I've even gone back to luring, if necessary - I used lures all the time in Dena's agility class.

So if using food rewards in training is successful, there's no need to discontinue them, but you can change the way you use them.
 

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Re: Young Max wants the treats, more than the trai

Nicely said cassidy's mom,thats what I was trying to say in a simplified form.I find people lose focus not our friends(sheesh I'm starting to sound like Cesar here)LOL
 

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Re: Young Max wants the treats, more than the trai

i learned that while i was going through our obediance class that tyson was loseing interest in working for a treat. so once day i picked up his favorite toy and he was FULLY ATTENTIVE!! i tried to teach zustan (stay in czech language) with treats but he wasnt really focused. after about a week of training this command with a toy he was "staying" while i was out of the room and causeing distractions. so i recommend what cassidy's mom was saying about useing a toy and see if that works better. also with the focus, i would not reward unless he was looking into my eyes rather than at the toy/treat, that seemed to help with his focus.
 

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The treats aren't the problem and there is no reason to change methods or use treats sparingly. IME using treats to train is extremely effective,easy and builds a great relationship between dog and handler.

That said, your wife's technique could improve. She needs to use a variable reinforcement schedule once the dog will willingly offer the behavior. When in the teaching phase of training you want the rate of reinforcement very high, a treat or reward for a behavior. Once the dog willingly offers the behavior on cue every time, the reinforcement schedule should become more random. If it doesn't, it creates a lot of frustration in the dog. The difference is like a soda machine and a slot machine. If you put money into a soda machine, you expect a product in return. If you don't get the product, you get frustrated and generally give up on putting money in that machine pretty quickly. However, no one puts money in a slot machine expecting something in return every time. People put money in a slot machine because of the chance of a reward - variable reinforcement schedule. Right now it sounds like Max is expecting a treat for every behavior. For the ones he is really good at, strat having him do "Two-fers" and "Three-fers". Have Max sit two times before getting a treat, three times before getting a treat, one time before getting a treat, three times before getting a treat, etc.

Three hundred peck is another good method for teaching dogs to go longer without a reward and is an excellent way to build reliability and add a variable reinforcement schedule. Three hundred peck is named after a behavioral experiment where a pigeon was trained to peck a bar 300 times before getting a reward. Start with having Max sit one time before he gets the reward, two times before he gets the reward, three times before he gets the reward, four times before he gets the reward, ect. Once you get to the point where he is hesitating to sit on your first cue, go back to one sit for the reward and build your way back up. Once you have him reliably sitting 10x for the reward, ten can become your base instead of one most of the time. Then fifteen cam become the base, then 20, etc, etc. But only up the base when he is easily and always getting to at least 10 and even then, occasionally go back to one. This method is extremely good for teaching stays, simply add one second each try. Dog sits for count of one, reward. Dog sit for count of two, reward, Dog sits for count of three, reward. Dog sits for count of four, reward. Dog doesn't make it to count of five? Back to a count of one for the reward. The counting should be done in your head/silently :)

I would also suggest the use of a behavior marker, to tell Max what he did to earn the reward. A word such as "yes" used as the behavior happens/before the will tell Max that a treat is coming and why. For example, if you are teaching sit, lure the dog into position using a treat and as his butt hits the ground, say "yes" then give the treat. The treat always comes after the marker word. The marker word is only used when it will be followed by a reward. This will help lower Max's frustration, as it will make the training much more clear to him.

Another great exercise for food obsessed dogs is teaching what many people refer to as "Doggy Zen". I call it "Off", people commonly call it "Leave it". But this is not leave it done in the traditional style (put a treat down and correct the dog for trying to get it). For this, your dog will be trained to first back away from food in your closed hand, then in your open hand, then in other places (chair/floor/etc). It is self control on the dog's part, not forced control by the owner. Show your dog a treat in your hand, close your hand and just wait for him to back off. The first few tries, very food driven dogs will seem like they will never stop trying to get the treat but just wait them out. As soon as the dog backs off, even just for a second say "yes" and drop the treat. After the first few tries, even the most food obsessed dog learns that he can't forcefully get the treat. Once the dog starts offering to back away from your hand, you can start saying "Off" (whatever cue you'll use) but say it just one time. Once your dog backs away from your closed hand when you say off each and every time, start doing 300 peck. Off for a count of 1, "yes"/treat. Off for a count of 2, "yes"/treat. Off for a count of 3, "yes"/treat, etc until your dog doesn't stay off for the full count, then back to one. Only move to an open hand when your dog will solidly leave the treat in your closed hand for a 10-20 count. Once you move the the open hand, start totally from scratch again, rewarding for the dog backing off at all then starting 300 peck. Only when your dog is solid on closed and open hand will you move to attempting it on a chair and/or floor.
 

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My instinct is to discontinue treat training, 'cause I've rarely used it in training my other dogs, but I hate to advise her to do so since the method seems to work well, until recently. And this is our first GSD.
It's not the treats, it's the method. Your wife needs to make it clearer that WHEN you do something THEN you earned the reward. And it must be earned (not demanded).

I agree with the others that you are missing a clear 'marker' in the training. It's why the VAST MAJORITY of us use the clicker in the training cause when I have to push on that box to make a sound THAT IT THE MARKER.............. then it's clearer to me what I'm looking for to give a reward. And then (brace yourself :) ) it's also clearer TO THE DOG that it was just BRILLIANT and the reward is coming!

We are humans and do not think like dogs. That's the reality. So while we think we are training something clearly and well (cause heck, it's clear as a bell to me) then we mistakenly believe it's then just as clear to our dogs!

YOU are seeing 'muddy' training! Lacks the clarity that we all strive for to keep training progressing and fun for everyone.

BUY A CLICKER! Then have you and your wife learn why all the most famous and best trainers know that using food/toys to train is the BEST way. So the smartest trainers use treats!

Clicker Training: Marking Your Dog's Successful Behavior


better when using the clicker cause we always talk talk talk, but whether you say 'yes' or do the better thing with the clicker it's the same idea.


 

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A trainer that came to the house to teach clicker training used cheese sticks and put a piece in her mouth, said watch me, then spit the treat out to the dog's mouth, and they caught it. It made them look right at her! She would put a different treat in her hand, hold her arm out, move the treat around all while having them still looking at her instead of following the treat. Stosh is treat crazy and that worked really well for him. Also 'leave it'- he knew he had to do something to get the treat in my hand rather than the one on the floor.
 

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Stosh you are my sons hero. Hahahahaha we just tried the spitting treats out for Shadow when she looked at our faces, now my son says he is being stalked. lol Between spitting treats out and your spin and rinse trick, my boy is very impressed.
 
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