Absolutely not - although you should do so at the start when you're trying to teach a new behaviour.

This stage of the process is called continuous reinforcement and it helps to embed your desired outcome.

Once your dog has got the hang of what you're trying to achieve, you need to switch to intermittent reinforcement - the stage during which you continue with praise but gradually reduce the number of times she receives a treat for doing what you ask.

So here's a quick recap on the plan:

  • To start with reward her with the treat four out of every five times she does what you ask. Depending on the speed of progress, switch to a reward three out of five times, then two and then to the point where you're only rewarding her occasionally. But don't be afraid to increase the frequency again if she appears to be getting frusrated. There's no absolute rule for this.
  • Be sure to praise her each time - and be very enthusiastic to begin with. As with the treats, once she's learned the behaviour you can make the praise a little more muted until you get to the point where a calm and almost imperceptible 'good dog' is all you need
  • Vary your reinforcement schedule as you move from one desired behaviour to another so that she doesn't catch on to the fact that she only has to respond from time to time!

By really getting to know and understand the power of positive reinforcement, you'll see that you don't have to remember to have a bag of treats with you wherever you go - as is the case with other behaviour adjustment styles. Your dog will soon be working for your verbal praise, because more than anything in the world, she wants to please you. The occasional treat is just a bonus.

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