Have you been Bribing your dog?
It’s quite easy to teach your dog to respond only when they see a treat and most people train it without even trying.
How is it done?
Step 1. Show your dog you have a treat, ask them to sit and reward them when they do.
Step 2. Without showing your dog you have a treat, ask them to sit. After they do, maybe tell them they are a good dog in a boring way if you have time and don’t reward them with a treat.
Dogs learn about step 2 very quickly and will stop offering the requested behaviour, you’ve now taught your dog it’s only worthwhile to do what you ask if he sees a treat first. Dogs want to be paid for behaviours.
Think about it this way, you may love your job, but you still want to get a pay cheque. If the pay stops coming chances are high you’re going to stop working.
Unfortunately, now that you need to show your dog the treat before he’ll respond it’s considered a bribe. You have taught him that if he doesn’t see the treat beforehand he won’t get one after so it’s not worth it.
So, how is that different from a lure and a reward?
A lure is using food to show your dog what you want them to do.
When first teaching a puppy to sit we hold a treat close to their nose for them to sniff and we move it in a way that their bum goes to the ground. We spend as little time as possible on this step.
A reward comes after a behaviour is completed.
We ask our dog to sit then magically produce a treat from our coat pocket or ask for a hand target to initiate a game of tug.
If you’ve been bribing your dog, it is possible to retrain them and teach them about the value of hidden rewards.
Step 1. Use the food as a lure a few times while your dog is “relearning” the behaviour. Repeat the luring 5 times and reward your dog for getting it right every time.
Step 2. Use a handsignal similar to your luring motion, but with out a treat. Once your dog does the requested before reward from the opposite hand
Step 3. Have the treat in your pocket and request the behaviour – reward with the treat from your pocket! Let your dog know that even though he didn’t see the treat first he still gets one.
Once your dog has caught onto the game that a food reward happens even if they don’t see it you can start to use other life rewards if your dog finds them valuable enough. Try toys and games, continuing on the walk, going to greet another dog or person.