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I'm a newbie. I don't even get my dog until September, although I have been preparing for getting a border collie for years!! After talking with dozens of dog owners and trainers, one topic always seems to be a hot argument point: whether to reward your dog with treats or not.

 

Some people claim that food rewards can upset the balance between your dog loving you as a their owner, or just as their food provider. Instead, these people reward their dogs with a toy, a few good words or a scratch behind the ears. These specific people never had border collies, only German Shepherds, and most people disagreed with their opinions.

 

Growing up we had a border collie beagle mix who wouldn't go near a toy unless it was a live, breathing rabbit or something similar. She laughed at tennis balls. Although a few nice belly rubs and some kind words were always appreciated, Sybil was fascinated with food and wouldn't do any tricks without it.

 

And that's what makes me wonder. If we never had given her biscuits or human food as a reward, perhaps she would not have been so food obsessed? Then again, she was a beagle mix, and beagles love their food!

 

I guess what I'm asking is whether you feed your dog treats or not. It seems that most bc owners do and have great results. However, I can see the point of the other argument.

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Speedy will be 10 in August and I've been training him with food since he was 7 months old. We have a fantastic bond, he responds just fine when I'm not specifically using food (as long as I have done my part and taught him what is expected), and he certainly does not just regard me as a food provider.

 

One thing that is necessary, if you are going to train a dog to fluency, is to fade the food when the dog is ready. If you don't do that, yes, the dog may always need a treat to carry out that behavior. If you fade the food, you don't end up with that problem.

 

It's not everyone's preference, but I prefer using food to train over any other motivator. And I am very happy with the results.

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I really think it's a personal preference. I teach some things with food rewards and others without.

 

Sometimes I give treats for no reason.

 

And what you use will also depend on your dog. Some are more motivated by food rewards and some by praise or play. I have one dog who won't look at a treat, period. To train her I simply used praise, which worked fine. If it hadn't, I might have tried toys, since she is toy motivated.

 

J.

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It depends on the dog. Food can be an excellent training reward for food motivated dogs, but toys and/or praise may be an even better reward for some dogs. I use all three.

 

Some dogs just love food. If there's food or something that might be edible in our house, Bear is always close by, waiting for a handout or a chance to grab it. He has plenty of other outlets, but food is just one of his favorite things in life. He has been taught not to get too close to food unless invited and he will go away (and wait on the other side of the room) if asked, but that doesn't mean every once in a while he won't take the opportunity to snag something off the counter or off an unattended plate when no one is looking.

 

I always use food when teaching something new because both my dogs are very food motivated and food is a fast, easy way to reward them. With Meg, once she has an idea of what I'm asking for, I'll switch to a toy for practicing the new behavior, then just verbal praise or a "yes". When Meg is in 'work mode' she isn't fond of being pet for praise. (By 'work mode' I mean she's attentive and waiting for me to tell her what I want next...in that 'mode' she loves being given a task to do and sometimes that in itself is a reward to her.)

 

Bear is not as toy/praise motivated so for newer behaviors I have to use food for quite a while until his response to my cue is fairly automatic, then I can switch to praise (he loves to be pet and scratched) or sometimes a toy. He will do things for me without food, it just takes a bit longer for him to get to that point with new behaviors.

 

Treats 'just because' are always nice (I love it when someone brings me ice cream just because) but should not be the only way you interact with your dog. I think a combination of play, praise, food and treats, and just spending time together is the best way to form a solid relationship. Its sad how many dogs don't get that. I know a lot of the dogs in my neighborhood are kept in the backyard and sometimes the only time of day they get to interact with their person is while being fed. I could understand how that could lead to food obsession and becoming overly excited over food.

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Some people claim that food rewards can upset the balance between your dog loving you as a their owner, or just as their food provider.

 

I have never bought into that theory. My dog doesn't love me because I give him treats for training. My dog likes treats, and is willing to work for them and therefore I can use them to train him, but that's not why they love me.

 

Treats work for us for most stuff, and we also use toys, genuine praise and petting.

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Some people claim that food rewards can upset the balance between your dog loving you as a their owner, or just as their food provider.

 

Balderdash.

 

The "balance" is to make sure the dog earns his treat, if you're giving them as a reward. You set the parameters, not him. He doesn't get to demand treats.

 

That said, it depends entirely on the dog and what you're training for. Every dog my hubby and I have had for 25+ years has always gotten its first obedience with treats. Yet each dog has been driven by treats to varying degrees. Some are chow hounds and will turn themselves inside out for a goodie. Our Aussie girl (1 year old) will go through her entire repertoire of sit/lie-down/speak/back-up in her eagerness to earn a treat. Our border collies, on the other hand, just sit patiently to wait what we want.

 

None of them will touch food if sheep are at hand. ;)

 

I am a firm believer in rewarding with treats. I see no harm in it - so long as the dog earns it. And as someone else said, I fade out the treats as the dog gets more proficient. Sometimes, pup, you gotta sit/stay simply because I told you to, not because you're gonna get a goodie. :) There are as many ways to train a dog as there are people to train them, but I've never seen where treats are in any way a negative thing.

 

So long as you control when, how much, and if he gets a treat, it's all good. Oh, and DON'T let the entire family treat him fifty times a day, or he'll end up round as wheel of cheese. :P

 

~ Gloria

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I guess what I'm asking is whether you feed your dog treats or not. It seems that most bc owners do and have great results. However, I can see the point of the other argument.

 

I'm one who doesn't use treats in training, except with very small pups. I use them then mostly because very small pups are all mouths and stomachs, and treats are a good way to interact with them and get them to focus on you as a good thing.

 

A lot depends on what kind of training you want to do. Will you just be training basic everyday obedience and good manners, plus tricks, or will you be training for a competitive sport?

 

The reason I don't use treats is because most border collies have been bred to want to work with you, to enjoy the process of figuring out what you want them to do and then doing it. I like to tap into that natural obligingness of border collies. I get a lot of enjoyment from seeing it in action, and from trying to nurture and develop it. If you train in a low key way that capitalizes on this behavioral trait of border collies, you can usually teach all of the basic behaviors you want, and any tricks you might want. And you might find it especially satisfying to figure out ways of doing that which makes the process rewarding to the dog in itself, rather than bringing in extraneous rewards like food treats to make it happen. Dogs trained without food often look on food as a distraction from the point of what you're trying to do together. If you find that you're not progressing in your efforts to train your dog without treats, you can move to a treat-centered method. But I don't think you can move in the other direction very well -- if the dog comes to expect that he will get a treat to reward him for offering the behavior you want, it's likely to be distracting for him if you try to STOP using treats in training new things. He'll find it hard to understand why he didn't get the treat, and maybe even feel resentful or discouraged.

 

You are certainly right that this is often a hotly debated question, and many people are very much in favor of training with treats. If you intend to pursue a competitive sport that requires a lot of precision in doing things that don't come naturally to a dog and may not be interesting in themselves to a dog, then probably food treats will work better for you. Of course, food treats are useless in training a dog for stockwork. In that kind of training it's super obvious that the dog considers them a distraction.

 

Good luck with your new dog whatever approach you decide to use.

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Thanks everyone! You're opinions are lovely to read.

 

Personally I love food. Not giving the dog treats feels like you're denying it one of the better experiences in life.

 

Just yesterday I was at the grocery store and saw liverwurst for the first time. Immediately I said,

"Border collies LOVE liverwurst! I should get some!"

 

My sister, who was with me at the time says:

 

"All you talk about lately is dogs. And liverwurst is way too expensive to give to a dog anyways and would probably make the dog sick."

To which I answered:

 

"Grandma used to feed the dogs chicken skin and beef fat."

 

She smirks, "Grandma's dogs never lived past the age of eight."

 

Point taken, dear sister. I won't feed my dog chicken skin and beef fat. But a little bit of a treat now and then can't be bad. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I need to get past the idea that love = food in a dog's mind. Rewarding the dog with food makes me feel better than the dog, perhaps. It's good to know that border collies are smart enough to do things just to please their owners and not to get a treat!

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What they said! And, welcome!

 

There are lots of healthy treat alternatives you can use - cooked bits of chicken or other meat; bits of cheese (string cheese is a favorite and easy to use); healthy purchased treats (bits of Natural Balance roll, other reputable treats - I avoid purchased chicken treats and any other treat "made in China").

 

We were never "treaters" but I used treats as training tools (for basic obedience and such) when I learned how to do it reasonably well in puppy and family dog (and fun agility) classes. They are usually excellent motivators for pups ("all mouth and stomach"!) and for dogs that are easily distracted (maybe I should have used them more for Dan as a pup...).

 

Treats are a tool, like any other training tool - and random treats "just because" can be a lot of fun.

 

Enjoy!

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Love = food is a common belief, so you're not alone. It's one reason so many pet dogs are so horribly obese. If you like to give lots of treats, just be sure to cut back the regular food ration accordingly so that you don't end up with an obese dog yourself.

 

As for liverwurst, I very occasionally get it as a treat, food topper, or for use in giving pills. In moderation it won't kill your dog.

 

J.

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Training with treats can help reframe the love=food mindset since your dog will be earning the treats when you are using them for training. I really enjoyed using a "learn to earn" protocol with my formerly crazy but now beautifully mannered guy. I didn't make him "earn" everything, but he learned that food=training (or mealtime, if that was the case), not food=love.

 

Of course I give freebie treats, too. :)

 

A little liverwurst here and there isn't a bad thing. I wouldn't use it much, but if I need something super high value, it is something I will occasionally use.

 

To make it stretch a bit, you can put a slice of liverwurst between two slices of bread and roll it flat with a rolling pin, then cut that into little cubes. That goes a long way - you can freeze little bags of it so you have a small supply on hand.

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Meh. My dogs can ask for food. It amuses me. It empowers them. They do all have certain polite ways I expect them to ask something, so its not nuts.

 

And if I say enough, you are all outta here, I am She Who Must Be Obeyed. That's really the only house rule.

 

I wouldn't advise most people go by this though. :lol:

 

I treat train. I've learned the principles of most other non aversive methods and worked with them. Treats let me focus on the dogs and my timing. It's just a me thing. Your mileage may vary.

 

Ted doesn't train with treats though. But he's quick to respond to simple praise, and loves the clicker. For him its hugely rewarding just knowing precisely what was right.

 

Shh. Don't tell anyone. I used a clicker on him on sheep. He didn't want to hold pressure on the away side so we shaped it one afternoon. Okay, that's just between you and me.

 

Sam is a lure and treat guy. He just wants to know where to be, so he can figure out what you want from him. Don't lure him "dry". If you want him to learn to put sheep in the pen, show him where to be the first time with real sheep at the real pen.

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Very good advice so far.

 

I will just add that I have found that the reward system may change/evolve as the pup matures or depending on the task you are trying to train. Lots of treats as a pup or for close-in work. My pup gradually preferred toys as he matured and the tasks became less static and more flowing. Treats were actually a distraction.

 

I also have a hierarchy of treats. If I am asking my dog to do something he already knows how to do, I will praise him or throw him a piece of kibble. But if I am trying to train something new, I give him the really, really good treats to keep him highly charged and really wanting to work and exert himself.

 

I think the most important thing is to find what your dog prefers - and that may change depending on his/her age, the situation and/or what you are asking the dog to do. I know one person who has a dog that thinks push-back games are the BEST thing - not interested in treats or toys.

 

Jovi

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I haven't got time to give a big reply sorry but just wanted to say that every dog is different and every dog will prefer something different to work for. You can manipulate this to suit yourself when they are young by building a huge amount of value into your preferred reward but some dogs will still have a natural preference. Ours are primarily agility dogs and this is what I am referring to when I saw "work", we do work them on sheep but have none of our own at the moment so travelling a few hours to see our trainer is not possible on a daily basis for obvious reasons :)

 

My preference is for some sort of toy/tug reward. Until I attended my first agility seminar when Delta was 9months old I had always been told that it was bad to tug with your dog as it creates dominance issues (similar in its level of fact to this story you have been told). Somebody made the point to me though that at the end of a drill the "food" dogs were getting a 1-2 sec reward as they ate their food. The "toy" dogs were getting 20secs to a minute (if not longer if the owner decided) so in terms of quantity those dogs were getting a much longer and bigger reward for their efforts.

 

I still use food for precision behaviours though. A typical trick or obedience training session with my pup would consist of lots of small treats for the precise work then a big play with his tug after he had done it correctly a few times, then back to the precise work, rinse and repeat.

 

Out of the 7 border collies here:

3 rate a tug as the highest possible reward

2 rate a tennis ball as the highest possible reward

2 prefer to work for food, although they have toys that they will usually work for too (1 likes a big rubber ring at the end of his tug and the other likes her small squeaky ball but only at home)

All of them will quite happily work for the joy of it and for the joy of working with us, however, to get the best out of them we use their favourite motivators.

 

The 2 terriers will work for food only.

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When I work my dogs on stock, there is no treat involved. They only care to work the stock.

 

With puppies, they get lots of treats as that motivates them to come, sit, etc...food is their friend.

 

With the other working dogs, I do give them treats but when I feel like it. Say, they are running about, then I tell them lie down and stay, then give them a treat. Some could careless about treats while other love them. The treats are not part of their training.

 

I do treat Nan when there is gunshot or thunder as she is freaked by that...I did a bit of clicker training and treats and it helped a lot. This July 4th,, she wore a Thundershirt and when it *boomed* she ran to me for a cookie. She opened her moth like a swallow fledgling and I dropped a treat in it.

 

Now, having said all of that, I have made an exception, Tess. Since she is retired and soon to be 13 yrs old, I am teeaching her dog tricks. As she learns the trick, she gets treated. She is VERY food motivated. This has been tons of fun for her and me.

 

Once, a long time ago a ACK person came out her for a lesson. She believed that clicker training the dog to work sheep was the only way. I demo'ed Tess and she said she could make her do better. (Of course, I kept my mouth shut as I was running in Open and she ran in ACK)

 

She tossed numerouse treats at Tess while clicking....no response, then she got frustrated and then began to pelt Tess with the treats..Tess gave her the dirtiest look ever. She refused to do as the ACK trainer wanted....then I stepped in and Tess worked like a champ.

 

As she left, she commented that Tess was probably full and not hungry to be treated. I smiled to myself as I knew Tess was only hungry to work the sheep and not get the treats. Later, I saw the LGD was cleaning up the treats. Tess will not take a treat when working or chained up...it is beneath her.

 

Needless to say, that trainer never came back.

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Oh, I forgot to add...when my mom comes over, she bring a HUGE BAG of tasty treats....Tess, Nan and Rainey just shadow her all day and they get treats all day fromher. She laughs and giggles when they down or sit for her. They obey any command she asks of them as WARP SPEED since they know a treat is forthcoming.

 

It gives my mom great pleasure to feed the dogs, then go out to the barn and feed the livestock. There is no way, I am going to tell her 'No"

 

I made the suggestion ONCE, when she was feeding the girls, the steak pieces from her plate that I don't feed the dogs at the dinner table...she gave me a withering look and told me "I am your mother"...followed by silence...I never made that suggestion again.

 

I look at it like this...she is my mom and quite old and it give me great pleasure to treat the dogs and livestock. To see my mom so happy, it is well worth it. She has had a hard life and to see her laugh is wonderful. The dogs are gentle with her and their tags wag in sheer delight.

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I made the suggestion ONCE, when she was feeding the girls, the steak pieces from her plate that I don't feed the dogs at the dinner table...she gave me a withering look and told me "I am your mother"...followed by silence...I never made that suggestion again.

 

:lol:

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Oh, I forgot to add...when my mom comes over, she bring a HUGE BAG of tasty treats....Tess, Nan and Rainey just shadow her all day and they get treats all day fromher. She laughs and giggles when they down or sit for her. They obey any command she asks of them as WARP SPEED since they know a treat is forthcoming.

 

It gives my mom great pleasure to feed the dogs, then go out to the barn and feed the livestock. There is no way, I am going to tell her 'No"

 

I made the suggestion ONCE, when she was feeding the girls, the steak pieces from her plate that I don't feed the dogs at the dinner table...she gave me a withering look and told me "I am your mother"...followed by silence...I never made that suggestion again.

 

I look at it like this...she is my mom and quite old and it give me great pleasure to treat the dogs and livestock. To see my mom so happy, it is well worth it. She has had a hard life and to see her laugh is wonderful. The dogs are gentle with her and their tags wag in sheer delight.

 

 

Great story about your Mom! :lol:

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In working with a lab/possible sighthound mix, liverwurst was quite handy. :lol: It never hurt her, either.

 

Anyway, I agree with the others. Giving treats won't upset the balance, or make your dog look at you as a Treat Dispenser instead of a leader. It's true that border collies probably have a better work ethic, and desire to please than most other breeds, but I see no problem with giving treats, both in training, and just because I want to. They enjoy it, I enjoy it, and no, they're not fat.

 

Find what works for your dog, and use that, whether it's treats, toys, praise or whatever. It will also depend on what you're training. As others have said, treats are not used or needed in stock work, but if you do agility or obedience, they'll work very well.

 

Diane's story of the click/treat trainer on sheep reminds me of the first time a flyball friend brought her border collie out to sheep at my trainer's place. I was mortified when she brought a bag of treats into the round pen. :lol: Uh, guess I forgot to tell her about that...My trainer is too nice to scoff, but just said, "Uh, we won't be needing those". Sure enough, we didn't. ;)

 

Anyway, have lots of fun and enjoy your new pup when he/she arrives.

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Dear Doggers,

 

Treats are one form of dog money. Captain Haggerty wrote the dog tricks bible and taught tricks with treats. Although I sometimes give my dogs a milkbone on Saturday night "Saturday night and I just got paid . . ." , otherwise none. At Wendy Vollhard's training camp this spring a nice woman asked if she could give my dogs a treat. June swallowed it quizicly, Luke let it dribble out of his mouth.

 

I remember meeting a woman at a trial who had competed in obedience and was considering "herding".

I said. "Well it's nice to meet someone doing something with older dogs."

She looked at me. "They're three."

They were as plumb and slow as ancient, retired trial dogs.

"I bet you have crumbs in your pockets," I said.

 

Border Collies don't need treats to be trained for stockwork or mannerliness. Otherwise, it probably depends on what you want to do with your dog and which dog culture you'll spend your time in. If you're doing agility, most handlers train with treats. If formal obedience, some do, some don't. Ditto rally.

 

What is more important than training methods or devices is your mentoring. Your mentor should like dogs more than his/her own ego. He/she should be a good explainer with at least, 8 years of experience with Border Collies. He/she should encourage you to get other trainers' viewpoints. If he/she believes and often asserts that other trainers are ( a ) cruel or ( b ) ineffectual, grab your wallet and run.

 

Then, if your mentor feeds treats, feed treats. If not, you'll have cleaner pockets.

 

Donald McCaig

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WOW! Even more wonderful advice! Thanks everyone!

 

In case you were wondering, I won't be getting a puppy aged dog, although I wish I were! I think having a puppy as my first border collie would be a bit overwhelming. Instead I'm waiting for my rescue agency to match me up with a good rescue dog. Someone around the age of three or maybe older. I can't wait, and I'll keep you guys posted on when I get my new family member!

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I think having a puppy as my first border collie would be a bit overwhelming. Instead I'm waiting for my rescue agency to match me up with a good rescue dog. Someone around the age of three or maybe older. I can't wait, and I'll keep you guys posted on when I get my new family member!

 

Hope you get your new pal, soon. Quinn is my first full Border Collie and he has been the most fun dog I've ever had. Just a blast. He was quite the handful as a young pup, though I think he was he fell on the more challenging end of the spectrum as far as puppies go. But at 6 months he went from most difficult puppy I've had to the very best. And it's been a love affair ever since. Though I got him for agility and spent the first couple years of his life training in that and obedience, we just play and hang out together.

 

Ranking what he finds most rewarding, we have:

 

1. Sheep (alas, no longer something we do)

2. Beach/Lake Michigan

3. Frisbee

4. Ball

5. Tug

6. Any other toy

7. Treats

 

Pretty much he loves to fetch and tug and considers himself sheep dog extraordinare (he's not). While he is more motivated by play, he will gobble treats in certain types of situations. If he is willing to take a treat rather than play, I know he needs to take a break. Treats never entered the picture when he had sheep lessons. I can't imagine he'd look twice at a hot dog if you threw it at his head when he was around sheep. In agility, obedience, and trick training I used both toys, tug and food rewards depending on what we were doing.

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WOW! Even more wonderful advice! Thanks everyone!

 

In case you were wondering, I won't be getting a puppy aged dog, although I wish I were! I think having a puppy as my first border collie would be a bit overwhelming. Instead I'm waiting for my rescue agency to match me up with a good rescue dog. Someone around the age of three or maybe older. I can't wait, and I'll keep you guys posted on when I get my new family member!

 

Yay! Awesome. :D

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Hi, Dogger Woggers. My name is Serena, and I realize you don't mean any harm in this, being a newbie but I have a really good agility friend (MACH Handler at AKC) who told me that he saw my Eluane appear in someone's avatar here. I also belong to the B.C. Boards but am a regular participant of the Agility Addicts in England. I use my Eluane avatar, which you've got on your i.d. on a regular basis at Agility Addicts. Hey, if you are stuck and don't know how to create your own avatar, just let someone here know and we can help with this. Eluane's avatar always appears online at Agility Addicts. Her "puppy" avatar for B.C. Boards is the one I use here to differentiate between the two forums. It does freak me out a bit, lol, to have someone have my beloved dog's face on their avatar when it's not me.

 

http://agilityforum.agilityaddicts.net/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=17412&p=143680&hilit=Tim#p143680

 

But you must be pretty new to the online scene, my guess is. Well, since you don't have a dog yet, maybe a cute photo of a dog toy would be fun or even writing the name of your upcoming dog in decorative lettering can be used as a temporary avatar until you do get your dog in September. There are lots of fun and creative ways to make a temporary avatar. Or even a photo of yourself can be used too until then. Let me know if you get stuck and don't know how to create a replacement avatar. We're a very friendly bunch and are more than willing to lend a hand...

 

Serena and Eluane

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