When Should I Phase Out Treats?

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by spark, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. spark New Member

    The title pretty much sums it up. We've had Zoey for roughly 6 weeks now, and I've been keeping up a steady flow of treats and praise whenever we have a training session. She responds to me well and does all of her basic obedience commands and tricks without actually seeing the food first, so I don't necessarily have to bribe her - but she expects a treat immediately afterwards. I also use toys for motivation occasionally, but they just don't have the same appeal as FOOD.

    My question is: When and how should I start phasing out the food? I generally use tiny bits of carrot (yes, carrot. :p Crazy dog.) and biscuits. We've used a clicker from the very beginning and she definitely knows that click = reward now. She'll come running looking for a treat if she so much as hears it.

    So... Should I wait a while longer before I go to the next step since she's still a puppy? Or maybe just very gradually make her work harder for the food? I don't want to rush her, so any tips would be greatly appreciated! :D

  2. fickla Experienced Member

    I honestly never completely fade out treats. I want my dogs to be little gamblers, always hoping that the next "trick" will get them a treat. So I start putting my dogs on a variable ratio schedule once they really know each cue well. If we are still working on it, or adding distractions I go back to a continous schedule. If you are switching to a random schedule, do it slowly and be unpredictable. Sometimes it's every 2, then 3, then 1, 1, 2, 4, 1, etc.

    I also try to use life rewards as much as possible. So do a rollover to get a ball thrown, sit between rounds of tug, sit pretty for me to put on their leash which predicts doing another cue before I open the door. This way they aren't getting treats as rewards but things they really want at that moment. Use the premack principle to your advantage (a high probability behavior can reward a low probability behavior).

    I wouldn't focus on how old she is, just on how well she actually knows the cues and can do it with distractions, duration, and distance before you start fading the use of treats. And if you're using the clicker, I personally don't click if I'm not rewarding with treat. I till praise and pet, but the click means a reward is coming and my dogs don't really see petting and praise as a reward even though they do like it, just don't love it.
  3. maven New Member

    The trainer that I am taking Bodi to says to fade treats when they hit 90% response on a verbal cue. Take a pile of 10 treats, give them the sit command (just an example -- whatever command you're working on) once and only once and if they respond correctly toss a treat so that they have to stand to get it. Then give the next sit command. If they don't respond correctly put the treat into a separate pile so that you'll know at the end how many times they did or didn't respond to the 10 commands. When all of the treats are gone from the first pile (10 trials) check and see how many treats are in the second pile. If there is more than one you need to continue to work on the cue before fading the treats -- one or less and you can be assured that they know and understand the request and it's time for the variable ratio schedule that Fickla describes. :) Remember the occasional jackpot too -- several treats, praise, baby talk -- like they have just saved the world and you're throwing them a party for it. Seems to work really well on carrying my guy through the dry stretches.
  4. szecsuani Experienced Member

    My advice is just the same as Fickla's.
    Never stop rewarding. :D

    If you want to do freestyle with her, you can start asking for more and more tricks before a reward, but she should ALWAYS get something.

    You have to keep her motivated somehow, and if food is the best reward for her, then reward her with that. :)
  5. spark New Member

    Thanks everyone! I just wanted to make sure I wasn't "spoiling" her so to speak. I think I'll stick with the treats and try to vary the reward like you suggested, Fickla. Zoey drives me crazy on nice, warm days wanting to go outside constantly, so I think I might try to use that to my advantage next time. :p Should I also click when I open the door for her, or reserve that for food rewards only?
  6. fickla Experienced Member

    I think that's up to Zoey and how much she really likes going outside! With Lance, I only click when he is going to get a food reward. I'm working on his tug drive and balls, but right now I can't easily switch from giving him food to giving tug as a reward as if there's food he doesn't want anything else. So when there is no food and I'm working on tug with him, I have him do some trick, say my verbal marker (yes) and then play tug. I think if I were to click the click would become less powerful since he likes to tug but doesn't love it.

    As an added note, I use the clicker 95% of the time when I am teaching new stuff, but I also load the word "yes" with my dogs for when I don't have the clicker on me. So "yes" is more then just praise to my dogs as I have the same rule that "yes" equals reward, however it's not as powerful because timing is harder, and I am lazier with it. I sometimes forget to reward, I say it just when I'm talking to my dogs, etc. So when I am training Lance with rewards other than treats I do use the word YES and reward with non food items and this also contributes to it being less powerful than a click for him.

    With my puppy, Vito, I DO plan on clicking and mixing up a food reward vs a tug toy, ball thrown, etc. I think it will lead to better performances if my dog can work for multiple rewards and never knows what great thing the click is going to predict.

    So as for an opened door, sure if she really loves going outside and you have a clicker on you!
  7. spark New Member

    Ah, thanks for clearing that up! I think I'll just stick to clicking when I intend to give her a treat then. Food is definitely her major motivator. She still loves to go outside but only when it's warm - if it's too chilly she'll just stand there like "What, do you really expect me to go out there? D:" Haha.
  8. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Ha, once i did stop treats altogether with Buddy for a while, a few weeks back. Tried rewarding him with praise and toys...HA! By the second day, Buddy went on strike, quit doing tricks altogether!! Pouted. Ignored me. :dognowink: Was hilarious. Buddy actually pretended like he did not have any clue what i meant!!

    Soon as he saw me put treats in my pocket, viola! He suddenly recalled he DID know that trick afterall!! bah ha ha!! :msngiggle:
    Guess I am the one being trained!! Now he gets them sporadically. But to get no treats at all, nope, doesn't work for my Buddy!:dognowink:
  9. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Also, Spark, maybe you already trained this, but i thought four our house, it was good idea to have Buddy NOT run out the door, til i tell him okay. This was super easy to teach him, he "got it" right away.

    I can have Buddy go into a sit in certain spot in the foyer, and wait, while i open the door, and Buddy will NOT run out the door, nor get near the visitor, --til i give him an okay.
    If i do NOT put him in a sit and get his att'n first, Buddy will/can run out the door, greet new visitors, so i have option.
  10. spark New Member

    I haven't trained that yet tigerlily, but that's a great idea! We have a fenced in yard so whether or not she escapes outside isn't really that big of a deal, but she LOVES people and tends to give them an over-enthusiastic greeting when they arrive - complete with jumping, licking and nibbling (which obviously most people don't appreciate. :p).

    How did you teach Buddy to sit and wait patiently? I'm not sure if Zoey has the will power for that yet, but I'd be willing to try, lol.
  11. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    Hmm, lemme think how i did that, see, teaching Buddy stuff is so easy (USUALLY) that i can about make up the method, ha ha! I think i had Buddy sit, and a stay, again, in a very specific spot, so he knows, "Oh! I'm sitting HERE, so that means i gotta stay put while she opens the door."...
    So i had Buddy sit in this specific spot, and opened the door, naturally, he jumped up to see outside, so i shut door again. It only took Buddy a few tries to understand, "Oh, i gotta STAY sitting here or she shuts the door again."

    Soon as he did stay seated when the door was open, i click/treated.
    NOW, it was a whole other ballgame if someone was actually AT the door,:msngiggle: and we had to practice this, in exact same way, while someone stood there on other side of door. That did take a while longer, and Buddy took a while to realize, oh, this counts for all different people. He apparently initially thought he only had to stay in a sit for that one particular person we had practiced this with, ha ha!!

    I don't ALWAYS do this for opening the door, but i do have 1 dog-phobic friend, and it does come in handy now and then, like, if it's pouring rain, no need to have a soaked dog for nothing, ha ha!
    Also, in a similar fashion, we are working with Buddy to understand, not every time we open the car door should he jump in, and if Buddy is in the car, not every time we open the car door, do we want him to jump OUT either...He is slowly learning to wait til asked to get in or out of the car. In kinda same way as above. Kinda. this is a little harder for Buddy, he is more excited, this is taking more practice.
  12. tigerlily46514 Honored Member

    I've seen on "It's Me or the Dog" this family had same overly-enthused greetings from their dog. What they did, was this. They lined up some volunteer friends, who knocked on door, if dog jumped on the folks, well, the volunteer friend person was to turn her back to the jumping dog, fold her arms, ignore dog, while owner told dog "OFF" or something.
    I've seen them do this exact same thing, with dogs jumping on seated people. The volunteer friend stood up, turned her back on dog, folded arms, ignored dog, while owner said "OFF" or something...
    They did have to repeat this over and over, til dog came to understand the human way of greetings. When the dog DID get it right, click/treated/praise.

    It's worth the effort, no one wants their dog to annoy others, and the dog has no way of knowing what is okay/not okay with humans til we tell them.

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