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Written by
Ed Frawley

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Puppy Litter Dynamics Weaning Dogs off of Food Rewards By Michael Ellis

When Do I Stop Using Food Rewards

When we train with food rewards we will meet people who tell us how foolish we are for training with FOOD TREATS. We will be told that it is only a matter of time before we ask our dog to do something and we don't have food with us to reward the dog with and then what will you do?

That is jut one of the reasons why it is important that you understand exactly how we reduce the using food rewards in your training program.

When we start reward based training our dogs are put on a continuous reward program. This is where the dog is rewarded every time it performs a behavior correctly. In fact, when we start training, we often reward the dog for just TRYING to perform the behavior.

A continuous reward program is the perfect way to teach a dog new behaviors. But leaving the dog on a continuous reward program too long will creates a problem.

When the continuous reward is used for too long of a period of time, the dogs start to expect the reward every single time they offer the behavior and when the handler stops rewarding each attempt, the dogs stops offering the behavior.

This is the reason trainers need to move on to VARIABLE and RANDOM rewards as soon as possible.

An example of a VARIABLE reward system occurs when the dog is rewarded for the 3rd, 5th, and 7th and 9th time it preforms a behavior.

An example of a RANDOM reward system occurs when the dog is rewarded for the 3rd, 5th, 2nd, 7th, and 1st. time it preforms a behavior. The schedule may change depending on the training results.

The goal in a reward based training is to create a situation where we create an expectation of a reward and when that reward is not delivered as expected the dog goes UP IN DRIVE and tries harder the next time it's asked to perform.

We compare this to people who play slot machines. They know they won't win every time but they hope the next time they pull that handle will be their lucky day.

The question new trainers are always going to ask is "WHEN DO I MOVE OFF OF A CONTINUOUS REWARD?"

What we do is move to a RANDOM REWARD when our dog performs a behavior THREE TIMES IN A ROW without making a mistake.

With this said it is vitally important to understand that there is no reason to completely STOP using food in training. Food is a motivator for your dog. You are about to find out how true that really is. So with this said, we hope you will keep your dog on a random reinforcement schedule for the rest of its life.

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