By Saro Boghozian, Expert Family Dog Trainer
Many dog owners believe the only way to reward dogs is by using treats or assume that dogs only respond to treats.
The reality is that we don’t give dogs enough credit. Dogs don’t need to be rewarded by food or treats only to learn something. They are smarter than you think and obviously, you are a smart individual as well.
The problem with treat training is that dog owners assume that dogs are motivated by treats only. That is not true. There are two types of dogs; one who love treats and those who don’t care about treats. If a piece of treat is in front of a dog, he may end up doing anything depending on how hungry he is which is a normal and natural response from a dog.
If we assume that a dog is motivated by the treat, that is because he loves treats. That‘s all. That does not mean that he is responding to treats or understands the exercise. He is responding to the temptation. If a dog is a food lover and you tease him with treats constantly, you are actually stressing and agitating him. Plus he is not focused on the task but the food. That is cruel to the dog.
Treats can be used for rewarding the dog for being a balanced, well-behaved individual but I do not recommend using treats for training dogs. When treats are used to implement a behaviour to a dog, the dog tends to connect it with survival and hunger-related situation which has nothing to do with teaching a behaviour.
Behaviour needs to be taught to a dog when the dog has developed a deep connection with the human using other systems than food or treats. When treats are used with a dog that is not balanced and well behaved, the dog misreads the idea and the techniques as being rewarded for being unbalanced.
There are also dogs that are not interested in treats. Yes, I have come across so many dogs that are not interested in treats at all and dog owners are forcing the dogs to love the treats, eat it and respond to the command. These kinds of dogs are obviously not responding to the treats but are looking for some other form of motivation that could be found and build by the connection between the dog and the owners.
Dog owners need to work on building a relationship with their dog rather than spending money on the treats and tools. You can use your praise just for the sake of praise for your dog. That is a hundred times more effective and rewarding to a dog than the most expensive treats in the world.
Many dog trainers use treat training system because most dog trainers have been taught the same system. But the reality is that there are other systems of dog training in these days and age.
Anybody can put a treat in front of a dog and ask it to sit and of course, the dog will sit. You don’t need to be a dog trainer to train dog owners that.
I use the act of the play, praise reward system to train dogs. Not many dog trainers use this system because either they are not aware of it or it is hard for them to learn it. It is easy to use the system to teach the public and dog owners. Dogs respond to play and praise more than treats and it is more reliable.
I have been training my own dogs and hundreds of dogs without treats for years and I can assure you, it is more effective and reliable than anything else.
In a nutshell, if you are depending on treats to get results from your dog, it means you don’t have a solid, healthy relationship with your dog. Work on building better communication and relationship with your dog, which takes a long time and doesn’t use temptations to lure in your dog to you.
If you are looking for scientific proof or misunderstanding the idea behind treat training, I encourage you to watch the following videos.