I think treat training is cruel. - Page 1

Pedigree Database


by Prager on 25 November 2018 - 01:11

 treat training.jpg The dog who is constantly rewarded with treats or toy play is `working for himself. Personally, that is not appealing to me. I want to get out of my relationship with my dog more then being Pez dispenser.  An image 

The dog who is rewarded with pat and higher than the normal pitch of the voice has no choice but to be working for you and with you or just plainly "being here " for you. He has no choice since there is no other option for reward.

    IMO it is a misunderstanding of our relationship with our dog if one think that dog loves us or appreciates us because we give them treats. But let me reverse and look at it from point of view of the dog based on psychological and physiological facts as we know them.

   I have a public secret to reveal for you. The dogs are master manipulators. If you are a food rewarding person or trainer then the dog will learn to manipulate you by making tricks to give them treat. Well, think about it,... And we are conditioning them to manipulate us to give them food if they do whatever trick which we foolishly perceive as obedience.

    Now, when we have trained the dogs to manipulate us, we have 2 options.

1/ First option is that we will have to carry treats with us all the time and reward every correct behavior. This is a crazy an impractical proposition.

2/ So that leaves us with the second option and that is we slowly dwindle the treats down. What does that mean to the dog? At the first time, the dog does not get the treat after he did the correct thing/exercise, he is obviously confused. Have I done something wrong? I have seen dogs who, because it is a rule, are not rewarded during the competition, to crawl on their belly because they think that since they are not rewarded they must be doing something wrong. This is classical negative punishment applied at the wrong time. As most here may know negative punishment is the withdrawal of reward until dog performs what he suppose to do and then he gets the reward.

   But surprise, surprise!!! In our dwindling down of the food or limiting reward during competition, we are withdrawing reward while the dog is doing what he suppose to do(!!!) and that is plain wrong as far as dog training goes and as far as building a relationship with your pup or dog goes as well - which is what I am talking about here.

  Now, consider the physiological consequence of not giving a reward when pup or dog expects it of worse is conditioned to get after the proper performance.

Allow me to start with this little physiological lecture. You know why even though you were not hungry at all a moment ago, you get suddenly hungry when you are driving towards your favorite fast food restaurant, or see on TV your favorite food? Actually, people may get hungry even when they hear someone talking about certain food or even while they themselves think about it even though a moment ago they were not hungry at all. The reason for that is because in those instances your body secretes insulin which by a complex succession of physiological chemical events, governed by your neurological system, makes you hungry. Mainly it is caused by hormone Ghrelin which is a hormone that increases appetite and hunger to the level of hunger pangs. All this is tied to secretion of insulin.

   I am sure that it does not come to you as a surprise at all when I say that hunger is not pleasant. And it should not be. If hunger would be pleasant, we would die of starvation. Hunger is a matter of survival, competing for its level of importance only with thirst and sex.

   When we are using treats as a reward, then the dog expects it in the same way as we expect favorite food when we see it on the TV and if he does not get it, the terrible pangs will occur and the dog may even start drooling Image result for drooling dog

That is the reason why the dog trained with food treats is frantically trying to do the right thing so that he can manipulate us into giving him treat and thus satisfy or avoid these very negative pangs. If you ask me that sounds pretty cruel. Now imagine, that people build a relationship with the pup or even older dog by "bribing " him with treats. Do you want to have this type of a relationship with your dog? A relationship where the dog is performing circus tricks for you so that they can stop or avoid horrible pangs which you have conditioned him to have in the first place, if he does not perform. And what about the pup who yesterday was taught that if he comes to you will get pangs quenching treat and in name weaning him out of treats he will not get it this time, but maybe he will get it next time.

  And what about the pup who got treats just because the owner came into the room and gives him the treat just because it behooves him. After doing this for some time we get the same effect. I came home - Insulin - ghrelin and hunger pangs and dog performing tricks like a castaway jumping up and down on a Pacific island in the sight of a ship.
   And you are telling me that pinch collar is cruel. Seriously? So you ask,...what is the alternative?

The alternative or one of the elternatives, is the soothing, happy, higher than the normal pitch of the voice reward word and subsequent pet on the head( or elsewhere) all done in a steady rhythm and in a timely fashion. This then involves some other hormones, mainly oxytocin and endorphin. Very powerful and underestimated feel-good hormone. No hunger pangs. And on top of it, I always have a hand and voice and thus the dog works for me and with me and not for what is in my pocket.

  Now I am not saying that you should not use treats at all. It is Ok and even good now and then. Just do not make dog expect it and be conditioned to get pangs or try to avoid them by performing tricks for you.  


is this what you want? 


 Iconoclast Hans( Prager) 


by Jessejones on 25 November 2018 - 06:11

There is so much here that I don‘t agree with.

Firstly, what age are you describing? It is important to state what stage of training or stage of development you are talking about.

A puppy of 8 weeks is not going to work ‚with‘ you. A puppy does not know anything. It is impossible to expect that a puppy will know how to work with you.

I believe one is setting the pup up for failure if you avoid using food motivators. Reinforcing good behaviors through something a puppy really likes, is a much quicker way to get self-motivated puppy compliance.

A high voice and pat on the head just doesn’t mean as much yet to a small puppy. Praise should be used along WITH food reinforcers....as a bridge to give the dog verbal encouragement, or as a verbal marker, that he is doing good.

One can do things the hard way or the easy way.

With food and verbal marker training, one can lure pups/dogs into positions. Above all you are teaching the puppy to LEARN HOW TO LEARN NEW BEHAVIORS...because he will start understanding that you expect a certain NEW behavior, or combination of behaviors and he will start offering his ideas on his own. This is when the dogs starts thinking. And this is where the fun starts!

The idea that once the puppy becomes a dog and that you have to run around with pockets full of treats is just not accurate.

It is a tool for a stage of learning any new behavior...as are toys/balls or tugs which are often more effective with older dogs...and both can be slowly diminished once the dog is consistent. At that stage when a behavior is consistent, then praise starts becoming enough.

Also, you can start stretching out and doing long and longer training sessions, and very long programs...without giving him a treat or toy. Often a ‚release“ or a „free“ cue is then reward enough, and the dog is totally happy for a job well done.

Even though for the life of the dog it never hurts to give them a nice unexpected food treat or a pull or bite on the small tug, as they come instantly running like the wind to you with just a simple quick call or whistle from 200 yrd distance to a nice front sit, while you are out on a walk.. Why not reinforce this once in a while? What does it hurt? And you can bet my dogs do it even without...but I like to confirm to them their decision to listen to me.... even as an adult dog. Often we forget to reward our older adults  because they do become so consistent and reliable.

Should one constantly just give dogs a treat for everything and nothing...just because....for the rest of it‘s life? Of course not. But to dis it as a supreme training tool for pups and young dogs is doing the training a disservice.

To end this...every tool can be misused, but we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.



by Jessejones on 25 November 2018 - 09:11

More thoughts...
Ask anyone doing correct Marker Training, and using food as a reinforcer, while teaching a new behavior, if he/she thinks it is cruel. I think you would get a resounding no.
Once you start teaching with markers, and use food (or whatever other reinforcer of your choice is that you want to use for that particular session) ..you will see the efficiency of marker training and realize the powerful training tool that it is.


by Hundmutter on 25 November 2018 - 09:11

While I think Prager has a point, I really can't see the purpose of the link to that FB page. That scrap of vid on 'Koba on the sleeve and on the man' is laughable ! And yes you can probably teach the puppy bitch to walk backwards by shoving endless treats into her maw, but who ever wants or needs to ?

The thing I most regret about 'modern reward based dog trainers' is that so many of them seem to leave these questions unanswered; they swoop in and do one session with the owner, teach treats as the way to go, and then disappear into the ether before the non-experienced owner gets to know about phasing-out. So for its life time, the dog only does a command when it is obviously going to get fed. And just does not understand what it is being asked to do when no treats are on offer. I am currently re-training a six year old who was obviously taught that way; it is possible to re-shape, but it helps to recognise first what has, and hasn't, been done to 'train' the dog.

I use treats, but I use them sparingly. I don't 'do' the sort of trick where the dog sits holding the biscuit on top of its nose, as personally I regard that as akin to dressing dogs up in human clothes, disrespectful !

With food and toy rewards, I find that exactly the same applies as about consistency in training - if you are inconsistent about behaviour you don't want, the dog will learn quicker to do those things; but you can turn that to advantage by being a little inconsistent about things you DO want ! Therefore sometimes providing a treat for the action, rather than always providing the treat for that action, can be a very effective technique. Yes, you are harnessing the dogs' hunger response - but I think Prager exagerates about that. And that obviously does not harm when applied if we are talking about using ball or rag or flirt-pole.

Jesse, I don't entirely agree with you either. I think it is perfectly possible to get a positive response with just tone of voice and caresses with even very young puppies. Your best advantage when a pup is very young is that 'invisible elastic' between you and the pup where they follow you anywhere; that does not come solely from your being the provider of their food. Indeed I have known it where I was NOT the primary food-bearer.

by duke1965 on 25 November 2018 - 11:11

problem I see is that many of todays trainers dont know how to train a dog without fooddrive and clicker, 

second problem is to keep a dog doing stuff without the reward presented to them regularly, some toptrainers do that with Ecollar, but that definately is not for everybody

teaching a dog with food is one thing, making them do it allways without reward is another game

third and main problem I have is that I would like to see dogs work from natural drives, not because they are bribed into doing it, 

someone saw a muzzle work video from me once and said, where is the reward in this for the dog, so told him, this is todays problem, as many dogs today will only work for reward, not because they naturally want to


by emoryg on 25 November 2018 - 14:11

Good topic and feedback. When the food runs out, the ball goes flat and the battery dies on the e-collar, the dog who's greatest reward is to be by your side, will always be just that....by your side.

by jillmissal on 25 November 2018 - 14:11

"The dog who is rewarded with pat and higher than the normal pitch of the voice has no choice but to be working for you and with you or just plainly "being here " for you."

I'm skeptical that any dog is going to be trained to any sort of decent level whatsoever for no reward at all or just a pat and a high pitched voice. Feel free to prove me wrong; I would like to see it.

This is very different from using rewards to train a dog and then fading the rewards out for the most part - which is the entire point of dog training if you ask me.

by ValK on 25 November 2018 - 15:11

GSDs used to be bred very selective for particular traits
one of them - willingness/urge to be always near the master and cooperate, whatever task is.

that is reward by itself.


by Jessejones on 25 November 2018 - 17:11

I would respectfully beg to differ with most of you so far.

I would venture to say that many don‘t have the experience to marker train correctly as they have perhaps never learned how to. If you did, you would see just how untrue your theories are - when compared to CORRECT marker training.

Jillmissal‘s sceptism is well founded. You will very rarely get a well trained dog with just a pat on the head. You might get a dog that behaves with only a pat and praise...but never a puppy or young dog that can learn, complex behaviors as quickly, as easily and as painlessly, and as happily.

Many here miss the point. You do NOT have to, nor SHOULD you, continue with food, ball for the rest of his life.

I really don‘t know where that untrue notion even comes from. I can only assume that some were never schooled in correct marker training.

And to say that your dog does not „love“ you, if you marker train with food treats, (or a ball, tug....which many older pups or dogs begin to prefer ) in whatever „love“ might mean for a dog...is just totally untrue and not reality at all.

Yes, the GSD is bred to want to please its owner, handler, partner...what ever you want to call us human caregivers. Thank god, because that is why we love them and why they are the perfect universal dog (or should be).

But it doesnt mean for one second that marker training with food and switching back and forth to a toy or other things he desires, with a puppy or young dog is not more efficient and faster, with more detail and complexity learned, and without confusion for the dog....than training with only vocal and a pat on the head.

To think that the dog is „taking advantage of you“ or is „manipulating you“ is fantasy thinking. To think that a new dog (to you new) is doing things, or will learn things, just to make you happy...you are also mistaken. A dog has his own agenda, just like we do. Take advantage of his agenda.

Of course dog are opportunist...that is why we can train them so easily. Without that feature, we would have a wolf on our hands that is almost, if not completely, impossible to train.

If you know how to marker train (always  combined with voice praise or use a  „ NOPE“  for Try again if not perfect ) ...you are creating or raising their motivation to comply. You are luring them into position, creating muscle memory and conditioning a reliable esponse, and creating the building blocks to create complex and connected programs for a continuous string of behaviors .

No one says to keep feeding them like a slot machine for the rest of their life. That is not how it is done correctly. And, if you let your dog bully you into giving him treats anyway...well, then one has to learn a thing or two.

The cool thing is that once a dog get older, and he does a behavior that he has learned from puppyhood with treats...as he ages, he doesn‘t even look for or expect a treat if done correctly. That expectation extinguishes, but the behavior does not.


by Koots on 25 November 2018 - 18:11

My dog's best treat/reward 'toy' is my hand(s). Since he naturally gravitated towards playing with my hands since being a pup, I have used that as a reward to reinforce training (this is after teaching him with other motivators/reinforcers like food). It is a reward that is always there, and easily manipulated for different levels of feedback needed from a light pat to full-blown 'tag' game. Combined with voice praise, it is an effective feedback method for MY dog, who has a strong bond with me and wants to work WITH me.


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