Bribing Your Dog To Sit
“Do you use food in training? I don’t believe in bribing my dog.” This is something we hear all too often from potential clients. I always respond with “Yes, we use food as a motivator and as reward, but we don’t bribe the dogs.”
I’ve found that it’s not that people are opposed to giving their dogs treats for a job well done; however, in their experience, if you use food, the dog will only listen when the food is present. Also, no one wants to walk around with a bag of treats forever. Here goes… there are three ways treats can be used in training… as a bribe, a lure, and a reward. Let’s define these applications and figure out if you’re bribing your dog to SIT.
Luring is a technique in which you use food to “lure” the dog into desired positions. It’s a fast and effective way of moving dogs around, up and down without physically touching them. By placing food in front of your dog’s nose, you can get them to follow the food. Once they start to follow, you can move them in any direction you want. Luring is a fast and effective way to get your dog to SIT, DOWN, ROLLOVER, etc… Here’s where it gets tricky. You have to ween the dog off of the lure and rely on the voice command. This is where most people get stuck. They lure and reward, lure and reward. They do it so much that the dog won’t do the behavior without the treat. Now, your lure has become a bribe.
Once you’re offering a treat in an attempt to convince the dog to do a behavior, you’re using bribes. After a few successful repetitions using the treat as a lure, you need to start “fading the lure.” To do this, give the dog the command, and motion the same hand movement without the treat in hand. If the dog does the behavior, you need to mark it, then reach for the treat and pay. (We’ll do another write-up on marking behaviors.) If you have to throw a treat in the crate every time before your dog goes inside, you’re bribing. Stop it now!
Rewards are treats given to the dog AFTER they’ve performed the desired behavior. To effectively deliver a reward, you should always mark the behavior with a GOOD, YES or a clicker. Scientifically, rewarding a dog for a desired behavior reinforces the dog’s desire to do that behavior. Rewarding your dog for a job well done is instrumental to training. Over time, you should decrease the actual food rewards and substitute them with play, or praise. Note: don’t ever completely stop rewarding. We all like to be paid to work, and dogs are no different. They can go longer and with less, but sometimes a well timed reward will do wonders for your pup’s attitude towards training. This will give you a well balanced dog that enjoys working for you. No more bribing your dog to SIT.
In conclusion, keep in mind that a lure is used to position your dog into a desired behavior. Lures are used in the beginning stages of learning. Next, a reward is given after the dog does the desired behavior. The reward tells the dog he’s done a good job and make him more likely to repeat the behavior (Positive Reinforcement). Bribery takes place when you use the food lure for too long. If you can’t get the dog to do it without food in sight, you need to take some steps back and re-teach the behavior.