Weening off of treats with clicker training


New Member
Hi all! I'm a newbie with a question. I've never owned a dog before but I will be getting an American Cocker Spaniel within a month or so. I've been doing a lot of homework and research on dogs. I plan on using clicker training as it seems to be the most reliable and logical method to me. My question is this. How does one properly ween off of treats and use only praise? I read that the method is to use treats often and be generous with your dog (a newbie mistake is apparently not treating enough) and then do repetitions. For example do the trick ten times and treat ten times, then do the trick ten times and treat nine times with using praise only once at random, and so on in this fashion until your using only praise. My question is how does one properly do such a thing? Is it important to do this whole process with every trick you teach? How long does weening take (for say a cocker spaniel). I must say I am very inexperienced with applied training but am eager to learn. Thanks for your time!


Experienced Member
I'd never stop giving treats. When you want your dog to always be happy to do the tricks you ask him to do, he should nevetr know if you will give him a treat. so you should give him a treat sometimes, to keep him intrested in doing the things you ask him to do.
Of course, while you are teaching something new, you should reward a LOT. Then, when you see that the dog really knows a trick, you can start leaving out some treats, but if you don't give a treat, don't click, just praise the dog very much. Show him you are really happy that he did what you wanted, -Then next time, reward him again with a treat.
Make sure, that you don't make an order, like he gets a treat every second times.
He should never know if he would get a treat.

Hope I helped... :D


Experienced Member
i agree you never stop giving treats or the behavior will go extinct. when u first teach the click/treat reward reinforcement is 100%. you add the voice or hand cue at about 80% compliance. when the behavior is solid at 100% you can stop the clicker since pup is doing as u ask. Start lowering the reward to every other time and then every third time maybe a week at a time. if you see any lowering of compliance you went too fast up it again.

your goal is to fade to random, not a number the dog can predict because they are capable of saying it's always every 4th time so i'll do it then. it should be random. when you first start teaching behavior the compliance goes up each time the dog is rewarded. if you don't fade the treats the compliance will actually go down because the dog decides i'll do it later because i ALWAYS get a treat for it and there's a neat bug here i'd like to sniff.

when u fade the dog starts complying more trying to figure out what will be successful. your goal is to fade and randomize the treat so that the dog is in a sort of pre-extinction hyper compliance stage. he should be just dying to comply and figure out when that treat will come. this is your perfect stage. if you don't enforce any more there ceases to be a reward and the behavior will become extinct and he will no longer do it.

there has to be something in it for the dog. now the reward doesn't have to be food, it can be play, praise, and affection. but remember if it isn't rewarding, whatever it is for your dog then it won't work. if he doesn't like cheese it doesn't matter how often you offer it or not it won't work. Affection may not be enough for some dogs, pets might. Ideally you should train with all methods of reinforcement and switch them up so that other things like play or tug are rewarding too.

so use compliance as ur guide to reinforcement rate. if it falls off you probably need to up the reward if it is an established old behavior. if it’s a new one u are teaching and rewarding 100% you might need to lessen the rate. happy training. :dogbiggrin: