Aren’t Treats Just Bribery?? No! Read On….
Updated: Oct 30, 2020
The very short answer to this question is that bribery comes before the behavior – click/treat comes after.
There is a method of training called “luring.” In this training the treat is produced and the dog is enticed to follow it. When the behavior has been offered the dog is paid. In this type of training the dog’s mind is on the food – he’s following his nose.
Watch the video with this in mind. Notice that we NEVER ask for a behavior; we create an opportunity for the pups to interact with us and they are paid if they do. The decision the pup makes is what gets him paid – he’s following his brain!
Consider this: You go to a new restaurant and your husband drives. Can you find it again? What if you were the driver? If you are like me you need to have been the driver! This works the same way for puppies. Following your nose isn’t the same as participating in the learning process with your brain.
For most of my life I did not train using treats, and honestly, I found the idea mildly offensive. I have never had to bribe my animals to learn from me and I certainly didn’t carry around a plastic toy to communicate with them. My voice and my touch were all I needed as reinforcement.
That works, obviously, since most people still train that way and are successful. But with clicker training animals learn faster and the information is retained longer; that was a provoking reason for me to give it a try.
Food is a primary reinforcer, in that an animal does not have to learn an association to it to be reinforced by it. Our pups learn to look forward to the sound of the clicker because we have taught them that something nice always follows the click. If you show a dog chicken he’s likely to salivate on sight! Food is a primary reinforcer while the clicker is a conditioned (taught) one.
When animals eat, and this includes us, there is a sense of well being. I’m not sure if it’s endorphins exactly, although I should probably look that up, but it is for sure a shot of happiness.
Timing is everything: behavior/click/tasty thing. I’ve read that a behavior needs to be followed with reinforcement (or a marker such as a clicker) in .2 seconds for the animal to make the association between the behavior and the reward. This is easy to do with a treat, while cuddle time is less defined or precise in it’s timing.
There are many ways to do something well, and all of us train differently and have success. I offer this information for your consideration. For me, I always have an expert at hand – my learner. If the animal I am training easily understands what I am asking of him/her I feel I am on the right track. Over and over and over my dogs/puppies tell me clicker training is the best game in town!