Treats during training

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Treats during training

Postby Stretch » Mon Apr 23, 2018 10:39 pm

Ok I know a lot of people use treats in training but I disagree. The dog should be working to please you in my opinion not for a treat. My pup is going on seven months old and I’ve never once gave him a treat during training. He has a good recall, retrieve, and took all of about 20 minutes to teach stay and the same for place. Is there anyone else with this opinion or do I stand as the Lone Ranger.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby orhunter » Tue Apr 24, 2018 2:59 am

Kind of depends on the age of the pup. I think treats are a great tool when pups are 12/14 weeks old. Those who use them, aren't using them for very long and wean the pups off them fairly quickly. I doubt every pup "needs" treats to perform but they don't do any harm. As long as a person gets the response they want without, they probably aren't of much use. It's all about the pup, not the trainer's aversion to doing what might be useful. A six month old pup is, or should be, way beyond treats in training.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby AverageGuy » Tue Apr 24, 2018 5:45 am

Stretch, I used to say things that sounded similar to your post. Time went on and I stayed at least partially open to taking in new information, continued to work with more Vdogs and my opinion changed. Your post errors in presenting reward/marker training as an either or proposition set against traditional methods. Myself and many others are blending the two and having excellent results. You, your current and future dogs will be better served if you do not shut off your learning after 5 months of experience with one individual dog of one individual Vdog breed.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby hicntry » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:08 am

I don't use treats and never have. Yes, I did try the method years ago when it was becoming the rage and found the treat system to have it's own failings that have to be dealt with.
Last edited by hicntry on Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby booger » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:13 am

Ideally I wouldn't use treats for training. But if they help the learning curve, I'm all about my dog learning the fastest way possible with the most positive attitude. So I use treats, but it is more a last resort, depending on the dog. Some dogs aren't that food driven and it wouldn't work. Some are very food driven and it works better. Some dogs don't care about praise as much as treats. It's more about how the dog learns than me forcing the dog to learn the way I want to teach.

And I agree with AverageGuy, you can do both traditional and treats/positive. I do.

I'll still use treats with my 5 year old dog if I think it will help speed the learning up.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:35 am

Don't know why anyone wouldn't use treats for training a pup or young dog. You can fully obedience train a pup and teach it lines using treats. It makes things SO much easier and faster. Then as they get older, stop the treats and go with praise. I like treating about once per three reps so they don't expect a treat on every completion of a task.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby Willie T » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:06 am

I started to say I don't use them but after thinking about it I do. Every evening my dogs get either a milky bone or a rawhide. Before giving it to them, either the wife or me put them through a short OB session. The dogs are eager and response is usually pretty sharp. The old dog is 17 and looks forward to it every night. Easy way to refresh things daily. So yes I use them sparingly for the life of the dog.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby hicntry » Tue Apr 24, 2018 10:30 am

I guess I use treats too then. Every morning both dogs get a slice of Kraft American cheese with 500mg of ester c wrapped in it. It is just a lot easier than grabbing them by the jaw and shoving it down their throats. lol Every afternoon, I give them both a whole, raw chicken wing to keep the firm stools. So yes, I have found a use for treats also.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby Misskiwi67 » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:23 pm

Hot Damn, I must be doing it wrong then...

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Re: Treats during training

Postby hicntry » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:13 pm

"See my signature for how well treats ruin dogs"

I don't recall anyone even implying that treat training will ruin a dog. Which post was that?
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Re: Treats during training

Postby Densa44 » Wed Apr 25, 2018 8:03 am

I don't, not for any reason that has been posted, I train 4 dogs and I'd never remember to bring treats with all my other equipment. At the end I give all of them those cheap "milk bones" sold at the food for less. They eat them like candy. It helps get them all under control so I can get them back in the truck.

I see nothing wrong with treats, but for my girls at least, they seem to like the training so much that treats would be superfluous.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Wed Apr 25, 2018 11:53 am

For training dogs for NAVHDA and the basic skills needed for a hunting dog there isn't any need to do reward based training. You teach a few simple commands via aversive means and you're done. Positive reinforcement (PR) won't, for instance, help you teach steadiness or how to point.

And aversive training works - you push the dog's butt down and say "sit" and pretty soon the dog learns that nobody is going to push on their butt if they respond to the sit command. Even FF, if done expertly, shouldn't even be a problem in the traditional sense: you apply force until the dog figures out it's to accept a dummy in its mouth and so learns to open it's mouth when you pinch it's ear.

But reward based training is very powerful and it's the method animal trainers the world over use to get their dogs to do spectacular stuff like going into buildings with cam corders and searching for snipers, etc. It's simply giving food treats for a desired response instead of teaching the dog to avoid pain. These particular PR methods are now honed for the average pet owner and so basic OB can be taught quickly and solidly pretty much by anyone. FF is one of these things that can be done by positive reinforcement as well, and so there is no need to subject yourself or the dog to the anxiety of going through the process. And the dog loves the training and learns it quickly and pretty solidly.

PR doesn't remove the ecollar from your training and so will likely be needed, for instance, to overlay the "fetch" command at the end of the FF process in order to create the compulsion that the traditional methods employ (it's needed at the end of traditional FF anyway). The collar is incredibly successful because a correction can be administered immediately and with reward based training you can't do that. So they're used in combination.

The real value in reward based training comes in when you want to teach higher level skills like handling and lining, and similar skills for advanced retriever training. Traditional methods of the past are based on aversive training and were developed by using reality mentally tough dogs like Labrador Retrievers. The usual versatile dog can't take high pressure and so ramping up the ecollar to get a desired result just doesn't work very well. The dogs simply aren't happy and their demeanor suffers. With PR you can get closer to the training levels of these tough retriever breeds but you won't surpass them.

The other place PR is good for are the problems that folks run into where they don't get a good recall, or their dog won't do more than a couple of retrieves, or they want to increase the distance on a send, or the dog is stubborn about a task, or just simply ignores you. If you're having training problems think about how some treats can help get you over it. Even going over your OB stuff with PR just gets you a more willing subject and you'll find that the dog's doing stuff because it wants to rather than because you told it to. There's a difference. I keep some kibble in the pocket of my vest and give a few pieces from time to time.

So, PR solves the problem of complex training stuff but also helps hone the normal OB that you use every day. And GH is correct in that if you give intermittent rewards (say three out of four times) you create a better response. It's like pulling a slot machine lever - if you get a reward every time you pull it then you get lackadaisical about pulling it and if you never get rewarded you give up on pulling it. But, it you get rewarded every now and then you will pull it vigorously.

My own personal story with PR goes back a few years when one of my griffs balked at FF and she quit talking to me for over a month. Gradually we reconnected and I started using PR to reteach the fetch process. Eventually she went on to becoming the only griff to get the HRCH retriever title, and also received a MH title in AKC pointing breed competition. Everything with her had to be negotiated and so I learned subtle communication ways about reading my dog that I never knew before when I just told my dog to do this or that. Dogs are really complex animals. Their brains are put together pretty much the same as ours and fMRIs (functional MRI's) have shown that they love, and have remorse, and plot, and do all the stuff we do but at various different levels. I can't say for sure that reward based training opened me up to more closely paying attention to my relationship with my dog but it happened at the same time and I hadn't learned it in forty previous years of dog training.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby AverageGuy » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:26 pm

Great Post Bruce.

You and MissKiwi brought me along in this area and I appreciate it. I made a much greater use of treats training my current pup than others before him, and it was extremely beneficial. The major misnomer I see is that using treats equates with only using treats. No reason it has to be that way and I certainly did not approach it that way. The preaching of "PR only" trainers against ecollars (which I knew to be the excellent tools that they are), kept me away from marker/treat training for awhile, but no longer.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby booger » Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:34 pm

Nice post Bruce. That last paragraph was very similar to my experience.

Hell just yesterday my dog that I FF'ed (to a novice level 2 years ago) wouldn't pick up her bone to give back to me. What I've learned from my dog is that I can't just force her to do it, not as her only training at least. After repeated commands I went back to the ear pinch and had to put it in her mouth. She then held nicely and I took it from her. I then held it, repeated the command and she took from my hand, which she did fine. I then placed about 2' away and she attempted to pick it up, right away she didn't know how to pick it up (its a big knuckle bone) and she just has a nervous demeanor like she wants to please me but doesn't know how (mouthing it and dancing around), with my dog it is more of a confidence issue. So at that point since I know she knows the command, instead of going back to the ear pinch, I encouraged her a bunch and she picked it up on her own and held nicely. I praised her up a ton and gave her a few treats right after.

I believe what I did is really a mix of the 2, forcing and PR. I think both traditional training and PR have their place. I know from experience with my dog that if I just kept on with the ear pinch and didn't encourage or treat, the nervous behavior would just get worse.

I never wanted to do PR or treats, but seeing my dog's issues get worse with the methods I was using obviously wasn't a good path to continue along. For me it also took the emotion out of it.
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Re: Treats during training

Postby GONEHUNTIN' » Wed Apr 25, 2018 2:16 pm

Good post Bruce. You nailed it.
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