Lately I have had several people tell me that their dog is good at doing something as long as they have treats on them. This is usually followed by a laugh, as if it is something that should not be occurring.
There is still a belief among many human that dogs should not need to be given food to learn or as a reward for doing something, or for training at any time. This must change.
When you see dogs who are highly trained doing work to benefit humans such as sniffer dogs, police dogs, ring sport or even obedience trial champions – all these dogs require CONTINUED TRAINING with either food rewards or corrections, however they are being trained. There is simply NO SUCH THING as a fully trained dog. ALL behaviours need to be up kept or they will become extinct in a particular dog.
This requires ongoing training – thus they will need continued reinforcement at various times to keep the behaviour going.
This applies to dogs at home as well. If you want a behaviour to be really strong in your dog, don’t take away the food too soon. Reinforce well, and then, when you get the behaviour to where you want it, you can start variably reinforcing. It is the idea that the dog never knows when he will get food that keeps the dog on his paws – so to speak. He is playing the treat lottery.
So before you think you should stop giving food during training, decide how well you need this behaviour in your dog. If it is a really important behaviour like the recall, treat more NOT LESS.