"My dog won't take treats"
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
For those of you that use Liberty Orchard to train in, how many of you find that Sometimes a treat doesn't cut it against the draw of the environment, even if it's a high-value one. This is something I hear quite a bit - "my dog won't take treats".
In this case, it's likely time to go back a step, or even two, three or four!
This is our quick checklist when things are not going quite to plan
1. Environment - am I skipping levels? Getting focus and impulse control in the outdoors requires spending your time working in the outdoors. You can't expect the focus your dog gives you within the house to automatically translate to every other environment - you need to work within those environments. Is my dog overstimulated in this environment? If so, it's time to drop back to an environment your dog can focus in and then gradually increase their zone of focus.
2. My attitude - am I present, focused and having a good time? If not, take some time off, get new light on the situation and come back fresh.
3. My dog's energy level - are they calm? Am I trying to train before they've had the chance to relieve some mental or physical energy etc. On the flip side, am I trying to work with them after a walk while they're coming down from an adrenaline rush? Ideally, we want to develop a calm default so their energy is stable, but if we're not there yet, try to pick and choose your moments.
4. Timing - am I communicating clearly? This is key; if you're not 'on it' with your timing your dog may be confused.
5. Rewards - are these providing enough motivation? To deliver positive reinforcement, start with something truly worthwhile for them. An easy way I've found to up the value of a treat is to increase the quantity - go for a handful and don't be stingy. Whatever is a bit mind-blowing to your dog. That's the tipping point.
These small change can have a profound impact on your dog's level of focus and motivation.
Obviously, you don't want to always be walking around with handfuls of treats nor feeding excessively (work it within their daily food allocation). I like to use a handful at the start of a session, in the beginning stages of developing a response (such as loose leash) and then throw it in every now and then to reinforce the longevity.