My dogs are trained without treats or toys. Instead, open and honest communication is used. Simply put, my dogs are praised when they do well and corrected when they make a mistake. Now this type of training takes a lot of dedication and isn’t for the lazy. At least with Scout, if you don’t consistently correct her when she willfully disobeys, she will continue to test the waters and see how much she can get away with. If you give her an inch, she will take a mile. It takes a huge amount of dedication to get up and correct her when you just sat down and got nice and comfortable, especially if you are in the middle of something. I’ve learned with Scout, being the willful Dutch Shepherd that she is, you have to nip bad behavior in the bud. Otherwise, it escalates quickly. Scout was very much a mess in her puppy days and we really cracked down on her. It’s interesting because now she listens much better than Copper, our Golden Retriever.
The great thing about dog training with open and honest communication is that eventually, all you need to interact with your dog is your vocals. There’s no need for balls, batteries, or treats. When I trained our little Miniature Pinscher, I used treats to get him to go through the obstacle course I made. That was all fine and dandy as long as I had treats but as soon as they were gone, so to was his attention. Of course you can phase out the frequency of treats but the dog is still focused on the reward. For a while I was using the electronic collar with Copper, and oh boy he was so well behaved as soon as that collar was buckled and powered. He got smart super fast. He realized no matter where he was, he had to obey as long as he had the collar on. As soon as the collar was removed, he ran around like a wild banshee. And good luck if the batteries ever died.
The one I find most interesting however, is the working dogs obsession with toys if they are used as reward. They can become so distracted by the toy they lose their ability to be effective in their job.
With treats and balls, the dog is focused on the object rather than the handler. The goal should be to have the dog focused on you. Next time we will discuss equipment.