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Some pet owners are against the idea of using treats to train their pet, some others swear by it as the only way they have been able to set some of their pets’ problematic behavior straight. Let us take a look at whether you should be using a reward or bribery method in training your pet.
How is reward different from bribery?
Food can be a powerful motivator while training your dog. However, whether food or the behavior takes precedence, can be a huge determining factor in whether you are rewarding or bribing your pet. Rewarding can help in positive reinforcement of behavior in pets. Bribery, on the other hand, will have your pet look for treats as a cue to behave well. You need to get the cause-effect sequence right if you are looking to train your dog right. Remember, treats should always follow good behavior, and not the other way around. In other words, you want to reward your pet rather than bribing him.
How does food affect a dog’s learning ability?
Food has a positive effect on a dog’s learning abilities. It enhances the dopamine levels in a dog thereby putting emotions like anxiety and fear in check. In fact it is the same dopamine that promotes reward-driven learning in pets. It is an interesting combination that can help pets train in situations that they otherwise find stressful. The great thing about getting your pet attuned to reward mechanisms is that they behave as told anticipating for the treat to follow.
So if you have reinforced your dog’s behavior through a reward mechanism previously, then he is likely to repeat the same behavior the next time, in anticipation of the treat. When your dog starts exhibiting these behaviors more proactively, you can slowly start cutting down on the rewards. Since rewards always follow the action you can decide how often you want to treat your pet for the good behavior. The anticipation for thetreats will make him continue showing the same behavior.
Keeping those rewards in check
The thing about reward mechanisms is that you do not want to overuse them, else they will not have the same effect on your pet as intended. You want to use these reward mechanisms sparingly, else it will lose the effect or the value it holds. If use the same technique as we mentioned above, you should be able to train your dog with treats, and gradually bring down the treat or reward dependency as well. Of course, you can gradually move from treats to praise or other such rewards, once your pet picks up the desired behavior through repetitive training.