How long to give treats for every command

Posted by Tracey
May 6, 2008
My 10 week old beagle, Buster, is learning his basic commands like "down" and "come". He knows them pretty well and will obey probably 90 percent of the time. My question is, do I continue to give him treats every time. He seems to be manipulating the command because he wants the treat. For instance, when he jumps on me or the kids, I tell him "down". He instantly goes to a sitting position, and I make him hold that position to receive his treat, but then he goes right back to jumping to get another treat. He will sit as soon as I say "down", but just until he gets his treat, then he wants to do it again. Whenever he obeys, he sits and looks at me, like "where's my treat"!. I have started just telling him "good boy" and petting him, and doing treats occasionally, but it seems like he is slipping backward. How long should I give him treats every time he obeys. Any suggestions would be great!
Posted by Kate
May 8, 2008
Hi there,

Great question. You've done really well teaching Buster to perform tricks on command, now what you need to do is gradually increase the interval that he receives treats for doing them. If you continue on with rewarding everytime, then the reward loses its effect and as you've found, you lose the dog's interest in doing what you ask.

It works similarly to how slot machines work in people. You keep playing in the hope that you'll win and thats what you want your puppy to be doing - sitting when you ask in hope that this'll be the time he gets a treat. So start rewarding every second time he performs whats you ask, then every 3rd, until you can only occasionally reward with a food treat.

Good luck,
Posted by Tarnador
May 16, 2008
10 weeks is still very young so you are doing well. What can happen if you rely on treats too much is that they will do something just for the treat rather than because you ask. So you can end up with a dog that can do every trick in the book but not see you as the person in authority or have any respect for you.

Once your dog knows how to obey a command then he should do it just because you ask and not for a treat, so I would phase this out fairly quickly. If he has a treat for staying down, but then jumps up again, don't reward him.

Dogs do learn very quickly and will be far more obedient if they see you as alpha dog - so read the section on becoming alpha dog and this coupled with a few treats should do the trick.

good luck