What If My Dog Only Behaves Nicely When I Give Him a Treat?

Kate Basedow, LVT

Help! My dog only pays attention to me when I have a treat in hand. What can I do to get him to focus?

Sound familiar? Here’s what you need to know.

Treats should not be used as bribes when training. 

Randomized rewards can help with dogs who start to get wise about whether or not you have a treat in your hand.

Mix up how often you give a treat when training. Sometimes she gets a treat for doing what you ask, other times she gets just some pets and praise.

Try to keep it random – three treats in a row, then two repetitions without, then one treat, then one without, etc.

The key is to keep your dog guessing as to when she will get the treat. This will help get her refocused on you.

Also, mix up where your treats are. Sometimes have them in your hand, other times in your pocket or a treat pouch. Even within the same training session, mix up where you produce the rewards from. This will help to prevent your dog from knowing whether or not you have a treat on you.

One exception to this rule, emergency situations.

If you and your dog are in an emergency situation, like close to a busy highway and it looks like your dog could bolt out into oncoming traffic, do what you need to do! Use that treat to coax your dog to safety.