Treat training, why and when it can fail.
Utilising treats during training can be great! And it’s something we encourage our clients to do,
But we also incorporate other methods of learning from leash work to play, on switches and off switches, we work on working dogs through heightened emotions at home first before moving out into the real world, this is to ensure we get the most success out of the work that we do.
I’m not kidding when I say we have a whole system when it comes to changing communication between you and your dog
and here’s why
When your dog is at the height of their emotions usually anxiousness but the same effect can occur when they are HIGHLY excited.
Treats hold ZERO value.
The level of anxiousness will determine whether your dog can eat or how palatable and rewarding that treat is within that moment.
It’s a great way to actually gauge where your dog is at and how well he is coping if he will normally take a particular treat in a quieter setting and is now all of a sudden refusing, internally his emotions are most likely going through the roof.
Anxiety triggers fight or flight within the brain releasing hormones through out the body indicating that things “clear out” which means no food goes in and well, poop explosions have been known to happen in some dogs, an increase in gas, I have owned a dog that’s a nervous farter and pooper, thankfully not poop explosions but when nervous he always has to go!
It creates a complete drop in appetite.
And yep it can happen with super excited dogs too.
Anxiety and excitement neurologically lay really closely in the brain and share similar symptoms and hormonal responses.
This is where many people hit a point of frustration with their dog, they put in the hard work at home, the dog is working great and the treat training is going so well, they get out in public and it all falls to shit.
Sometimes the advice will be thrown out there, “you just haven’t done enough reps” “practice more at home” basically “do more”
While that feedback seems to make sense, there are dogs that as soon as they step out of the property there is a shift in emotional energy, they can’t process that tactic of learning because food has lost all appeal, there is just too much going on.
Dogs aren’t doing things is spite of you, to intentionally make things difficult their brains and bodies are also going through a process as you move through the work.
Eventually, to move a dog through what is a perceived stressful situation we have to put them in that situation and move them through it.
This is where treat training fails, and we have to move into the other work that has been taught to communicate with the dog, “follow my lead we are going to be all right buddy”
Similar happens for us humans too.
Being in business you have to do things that scare you OFTEN. I used to be terrified of public speaking, in fact I argued with a teacher in high school and told them to fail me for the entire year I didn’t care I was not getting up to do the speech, legit was physically ill at the thought of even having to do it, I didn’t do it, and I didn’t fail either but now it’s a part of my job, I still get a little nervous but I love reaching out and connecting with people, it’s so worth it.
So when I find something I am scared of I do it anyway and as soon as I have done it I always say to myself “see Rachel we didn’t die”
As cynical as that sounds, my brain and body have a silly way of telling itself this is a flight or fight moment when it’s not.
The only way I have been able to over come that is by DOING the things that scare me. I can prep at home all I want but I’m not going to stop being stressed or scared until I just do it. Growth happens on the edge of our comfort zone.
Don’t get me wrong though its far from easy and I have needed the right settings, support and work, to be able to do this I have built the right foundations to be supported through it so I end up with confidence in the end instead “omg! See I knew that was a bad idea!!”
I have found the same to be true for dogs, the greater the foundation of communication, connection and support, and THEN moving them through what is a highly emotional situation for THEM will have the greatest impact.
It’s why people struggle to work through these bigger behavioural issues on there own.
There is so much going on with your dogs mind and body, let alone what’s going on between you guys, let alone what is going on in the rest of the world.
This is why one method no matter the method doesn’t work to help create those real huge mindset shifts in your dog.
Dog training is not and never will be a one size, one technique fits all gig.
So if you are feeling like you are fed up, frustrated, nothing seems to work, it’s your dog he is just too stubborn.
Remember there is probably deeper things going on under the surface that he can’t actually express and explain to you.