Reward or bribery?

Using rewards in dog training is an established and effective method for training dogs. However, if used incorrectly it can be counter-productive.

I am seeing an increasing number of videos on Facebook and Youtube showing treats being used in the wrong way by ‘dog trainers.’ These videos show the trainer, or handler, constantly feeding treats to the dog, thereby encouraging it to do what is required. This, of course, is then taken to be the standard for many owners who experience this ‘training.’ In fact, this is ‘bribing’ a dog to do what is asked of it. This ‘method’ demonstrates a, fundamental, lack of understanding of why a dog does something, from a behavioural perspective.

The point of using treats is to REWARD the dog for a job well done. This is done AFTER the dog does whatever is required. Focusing the dog with a continuous supply of treats will not result in the dog learning the new skill or behaviour. As soon as the treat is removed from the equation, most dogs will, simply, not comply. This is bribery – not recommended.

An effective method is to keep a treat out of sight, ask the dog to perform what is required – when it does so, it is immediately rewarded with the treat.  This then goes onto an intermittent reward – the dog, sometimes gets a treat, other times it gets just praise.  This is rewarding a behaviour not bribing the dog to do something.

Adopting the approach outlined above, is much more effective in helping a dog learn and retain its training.