Are more treats necessary?
That question came out of my Monday Post about dog boots. It crossed my mind that anybody who has not had the pleasure of living with a dog (or someone who still believes in the dominance methods of training), could well be shaking their heads because we are simply bribing Ray…. and you just cannot keep bribing a dog to get him to cooperate. I totally agree!
The difference between a bribe and a reward must be understood. A bribe is offered BEFORE an event happens. A reward is offered AFTER an event happens. Positive reinforcement training is rewards based… not bribe based.
It is also important to understand that a dog is an opportunistic character (we should learn from them), in that once a behaviour is established, the treats can slowly be withdrawn. i.e. Last week, Ray knew that he would get small pieces of Cheddar cheese when each boot was on. Yesterday, while he no doubt expected the routine to be repeated, he did in fact get less cheese. His attitude would be simply “Oh… no cheese with the first boot, but I’ll probably get a piece with the next one!” (That’s the attitude which so many people should adopt). It will probably not be long before he allows all four boots to be put on before he gets his piece of cheese!
Another comment we often hear regarding reward based training, is the potential for putting on too much extra weight if he keeps getting treats, due to a heavy training program. This is typically a non-dog owner question, because the solution is really simple. We cut back on his main meals.
Ray really does not care whether he gets two cups of food in his bowl, or a cup and half. He just wants his food in the bowl at meal times! With the same rationale, he does not care how big a treat is, as long as it tastes good (necessary for training).
It is so easy (far too easy) to put human values on the situation, and believe that Ray, being a quite big dog, would like big treats. He really appreciates a biscuit as a treat, and it is immaterial what size it is. He will enjoy it regardless (something else us humans can learn perhaps?).