I often get asked when can we stop rewarding our dogs.
I have some really good dogs. They are pretty well trained, well behaved (for the most part haha) and are very reliable. And I still bring treats on my walks. I still reward good choices. And I absolutely pay them for working.
How long would you keep going to work if your employer stopped paying you?
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working or how great you are at your job, very few would keep going to work and putting the effort in “just because”. If there’s no pay out, you’d likely stop going. Or your work ethic would drop significantly.
If you're looking for an easy answer to the question “when can I stop rewarding”, if you want a set reply, I’m not the trainer for you.
I believe in rewarding dogs for good choices and I can’t train your dog to be a robot and listen “just because”. The alternatives to positive reinforcement, is not something I’m interested in.
That being said, when your dog starts understanding his/her job, the frequency of rewards can absolutely lower and change. You can use real life rewards, instead of treats.
But until then, please understand that we need to pay our dogs for the behaviours we like. That’s how we create new habits and build a better understanding for the human-dog relationship.