Using Treat Delivery to Your Advantage

See the treat in the container?

How you deliver the treat during training can make or break the lesson. I’m going to go as far as to say treat delivery is just as important as your timing with the clicker. Take a look at this video.

Can you see how she delivers the treat where she wants the end behavior to be? The dog naturally moved to that location with the toy in its mouth because that is where it was receiving reinforcement. It was not cued to do that. By the middle of the session she had two end behaviors being practiced:

  1. picking up the next toy
  2. dropping the toy in the container
Those are two different behaviors that needed to be reinforced, but instead of giving the dog the treat by hand or randomly on the ground she placed the reward near the next task for the dog. This helped the momentum continue and created a nice flow to the training session.
Keep in mind, some people and dogs would prefer to master each task separately instead of doing both at once like in the video. The skill level of the handler and dog were well matched so the dog was set up to succeed. Some dogs may not be so quick to pick up both tasks at once.

Notice, when the dog tries to pick up the toy that is already in the container, she does not correct him and instead she tells him to drop it (which is already in his vocabulary) and puts the treat near the next toy to be picked up. Punishment would only decrease the willingness to work and learn.

See the treat in the container?

Treat delivery is something I am recently catching on to as well. If the dog isn’t responding normally, treat delivery is something that should be looked at. Things to think about:

  • What is the end position the dog should be in?
  • Can the treat be delivered in the position or near it?
  • Does he have to hold that position?
  • Does he naturally get in that position? (i.e. sit, lie down, stand)

Recently while I was teaching my dog to bow, I had to look at how I was delivering the treat. Loker (my dog) would put his front down first, but since he has been highly reinforced to lie down all the way, he would go down all the way by the time I got him the treat in position. I started making him get up to get his treat so that it would be more inconvenient for him to lie down all the way. By the end of the session, he understood what I was asking of him and kept his back-end in the air.

Figure out where you should best reinforce your dog for best results while training. Sometimes it is best to feed in position, sometimes it is best throw the treat, and sometimes it is something in between! Successful dog training is all about getting creative sometimes! Like I always say, “There is a strategy behind the treats!”