Tip for Training Without Treats
The way you train now will have an impact on the way you train and interact with your dog throughout your dog’s life. When it comes to training, you have to ask yourself the following question.
Why should your dog listen to you?
My answer is this.
I want my dogs to listen to me because of the strong relationship I have with them. My dogs are motivated to train and listen because communicating with me is more rewarding than ignoring me even in distracting environments. Even when my dogs want to do normal dog things like chase squirrels or dig in the dirt, I am confident that if I need to call them back or redirect them, they will listen. I don’t want my dogs to be obedient robots. I just want them to be happy, safe and motivated to play our training games.
When clients see me working with their dogs for the first time they seem surprised.
“How do you get him to listen and respect you like that?” I have been asked.
It’s not always about respect. It’s simply clear communication. Dogs need boundaries, but don’t be fooled into thinking that every time your dog does not listen, it is because he is trying to take over your life. Your dog is not likely jumping on the sofa and running out door ways before you because he is trying to be dominant. He simply needs you to be clear about the rules and communicate and reward naturally.
I am always communicating with animals while I am working with them and even when I am not training. Clear communication is a huge part of training. If a dog looks like he wants to jump on me, I am giving him subtle cues not to which may work or may not depending on the dog’s experiences. When I am chatting with clients during a training session and their dog lays down and relaxes, I look over to the dog and acknowledge her, giving body language and attention that is equal to a quiet reward.
The way we communicate and interact with our dogs will help with training. Training is not just about treat rewards. If you are training with food, you should begin planning now what each behavior will look like without the food and pay attention to how you use treat rewards. If you always have one hand on your bait bag, you are going to have a difficult time phasing out the food.
Build a great working relationship with your dog and communicate clearly. Use many types of rewards and help your dog learn and understand what you want for success. Your dog needs clear guidance. You should train with rewards, but your dog should learn to love working with you and be able to pay attention even when you don’t have the food on you. Work towards this goal right from the start.