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My Dog Won't Listen to Me Without a Treat!!

There are 3 common ways to teach a command.

Luring is when you get a dog to perform a behaviour by following a motivator such as good or a toy in front of it’s face.

Example : When you lure the dog into a sit position, and reward the dog for being in the correct position.

Capturing is when you capture, mark and reward a natural behaviour of a dog, without any guidance on performing the behaviour. With consistency, the dog would start to understand that they get a reward for performing the behaviour that you like.

Example : When your dog stretches after getting up and you mark that behaviour with a verbal cue or clicking your clicker, and reward the dog immediately.

Shaping is when you break a command into smaller portions and you reward the dog for performing each individual step.

Example : Getting the dog to turn on a light by pushing a switch, we start by rewarding the dog for going near the switch. We then progress to rewarding the dog when the dog touches the switch. The final portion would be when the dog pushes the switch hard enough to turn on a light.

So, why would a dog not listen to a command without a treat? This often happens when you teach the dog a command by ‘luring’, and training does not progress from the ‘luring’ phase to the ‘reinforcer’ phase.

Once you have shaped the wanted behaviour, it needs to be reinforced. A reinforcer is when the reward becomes intermittent; and the dog may or may not get the reward after it performs the behaviour. This phase of intermittently rewarding your dog should only happen when the dog is performing a particular behaviour consistently with a reward. Think of it as your dog being ‘addicted’ to the treat. The anticipation of whether the treat may or may not come, will most likely get your dog to perform the behaviour consistently.

Context is also another important criteria to work with. Once your dog is consistent with being lured, use different motivators in the form of affection, food or toys. Remember to pay attention to what your dog shows you is a key motivator specific to it. Using a motivator that your dog isn’t keen on, would be sure fire way for your dog to get bored and lose interest in training very quickly.

Finally, remember that whilst it’s good to have specific timings set aside to train, training randomly is also key to consistency. Remember that you should be rewarding the right behaviour at all time, throughout the day, making it part of your lifestyle. This would solidify your dog behaving through out the day, and not just during ‘training’ times.

Remember these 3 key things to transition to consistency : Reinforce, context, lifestyle.



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