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Is Treat Training Bad for Dogs?

Updated: May 7

Can You Train a Dog Without Treats?


Is treat training bad for dogs? In my opinion, it is because it undermines your dog's intelligence, creates bad dog behaviours, starts a negotiation with your dog, when you could just have expectation instead and it's not necessary. There are other ways of rewarding your dog's good behaviour such as touch & praise. Brad gives Kya the border collie some great pets on the neck to show he appreciates her being a good dog.
Is treat training bad for dogs? In my opinion, it is because it undermines your dog's intelligence, creates bad dog behaviours, starts a negotiation with your dog, when you could just have expectation instead and it's not necessary. There are other ways of rewarding your dog's good behaviour such as touch & praise. Brad gives Kya the border collie some great pets on the neck to show he appreciates her being a good dog.

How To Train a Dog Without Treats


TREATS VS. DESERT

 

DOG TREATS, the joy and the not so joyful task of constantly feeding a dog treats. The heavenly feeling tossing a piece of kibble in your dog’s mouth has a blissful warmth to it. A connection of sorts. The cute puppy stares, the constant pawing, the begging to soon follow and all of the perfect selfies with your pup.

The warmth of the soft pink tongue, licking and lapping up every crumb from your palm and between your fingers. You feel good about being a part of this simple little task. Your pup needs you, wants you. The feeling doesn’t get much better than that.

 

Fast forward a couple years.

 

Your dog said no to treats, you couldn’t catch your dog.  

Your dog said no to treats, your dog won’t come.

Additional issues arise. Begging, staring at you while you eat dinner, stealing food from the counter or getting into the garbage. Maybe your dog has accidentally stolen food from the coffee table, snatched a piece of pizza, or made off with a mouth full of hot dog, hamburger or turkey. The likelihood of a dog jumping up to ask for food seems innocent enough until a person gets pushed down. We all want to love our dog, we want the best for our dog and we hope for a model dog citizen.

 

A model dog citizen is attainable with a plan which melds naturally with dogs. Dog training strategy is important. More importantly is the way a dog is taught. When time has been taken to understand a dog and the space in which the dog naturally understands, then teaching a dog without treats is effortless. With food you need to manage a bag on your waist, a hand constantly holding food, some pray that the dog keeps focus on the food. The fact that a person’s persona changes with fear, worry, anxiety and much more. Means the person is not natural and relaxed which has an impact on the dog’s behaviour. 

 

I quite enjoy giving Rocket a snack or desert. I’m not willing to dummy down her incredible brain from responding and decision-making ability. I never use treats because it's unnatural.

 

Bribe your child

 

Imagine giving a child a bite of food every time they looked at you, sat, walked with you, stopped, tied a shoe, put on a coat. You would think that’s insane and crazy. We would not even consider that as normal. If anything, we would quickly criticize it as wrong. And you would be right, it is wrong. We know better, society has taken the needed time to understand people. Unfortunately, the same has not been gracious towards dogs.

 

As an experienced dog trainer and dog behaviourist, here is what I do know.

 

Treats are not a guarantee your dog will do as per requested or told. The tom foolery around treats makes anyone a dog trainer without essential education. Dogs have exquisite minds and are incredibly intelligent. Imagine feeding a dog education, with the premise it can and will learn. Praise with touch. Not food. Learn to raise the expectation and create a world with rich stimulation. Grow the dogs mind not stifle growth. All of this is attainable, and easier than one may think.

 

Desert is the warm fuzzy 

 

You get to give to your dog at unexpected times. When Rocket has had a big day and she has worked hard doing what Rocket does. Often at random times I will give her some extra food or snack. Salmon skins, dried sardine for instance. This is different when we are training or doing stuff together. When I praise Rocket, I praise with touch and she loves her firm scrunches or pats to her side. Touch is valuable. I learned this studying Wolves, coyotes and dogs. In the animal world touch is essential tool when communicating. Touch is used in hello, play, dominance, teaching, discipline and rank. Keep in mind no animal brings a treat to another animal for sitting or looking at each other. Respect is earned as well as behaving and do as told when you are told. This is different than what treat trainers say when using food.  Animals have balance in their said cultures. Treat trainers disturb the balance creating mayhem and confusion. 

 

What happens when confusion and mayhem tilt the scale of balance? This is the dread in which I and other trainers know.  A tilted glass will eventually spill the red wine. The spilled red wine in this case causes damage, stained carpet or clothing. Imagine this is a dog the reaction, when we have an unbalanced dog can be a plethora of anxiety, aggression, barking, lunging, pulling on leash, you get the picture. Treat training is stealing from your dog and causes unbalanced behaviours. Dogs need to know you, the dog owner is capable of leading, will take control of daily threats, teachings, guidance and much more. A treat will never have the ability to do all of this.

 

Expectation is a critical element and it is essential when you want to train a dog without treats

 

Raise the expectation, your dog will thank you for it! Dogs want to be educated and given jobs and tasks. Dogs want excitement not routine movement. I will task each person who reads this blog to do only 3 things.


1.     End giving your dog treats for one week;


2.     Praise your dog with firm pats and scrunches no longer the 4 seconds at a time; and,


3.     Take your dog on a different walk every day, go a minimum of 45 minutes and incorporate going around trees, poles and up and over boulders or anything else.

 

I will say this in closing. Calculate how much you spend weekly on treats then calculate it for a year then up to 5 years. Ask yourself, “If I can train my dog without treats like Brad says, where should I spend my money I saved from not buying treats?” A holiday, road trip, new clothes…

Moving forward I also suggest, ask your treat trainer if they can train dogs without treats which is just bribing and baiting.  Be prepared for the silly responses.

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. My Podcast is available to listen to as well.



About the Author

Written by Brad Pattison, Dog Behaviourist, Dog Trainer & Puppy Trainer

Author of four dog training books, National Best Seller, "Brad Pattison UNLEASHED"

Host of three television shows including, "At the End of My Leash" & "Puppy SOS"

Follow us on socials, IG: @hustleupdogs & Facebook: Hustle Up Dog Training

Email us anytime with questions & comments at info@hustleupdogtraining.ca

For further information call CA +1 (250) 317-0274

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