As a trainer, I hear this question a lot: “When should I stop treating my dog once he’s learned a behavior? Or should I just keep treating him every time?“
It’s a great question! Switching from “luring” to get your dog to do something to “rewarding” him for the action after he does it is a very important part of being a good trainer!
Start slowing down the rate of reinforcement once your dog is 75%-80% reliable and can sit or lie down or walk nicely on leash. Treat but not every time. Reward the fast sits and downs, the really nice leash walks, the quick “leave its” and “drop its.” Praise the ones that are just “okay,” but hold back the treats for the times that your dog shows you he’s really excelling at what you’ve taught him!
In a nutshell, don’t be a vending machine. Be a slot machine instead: pay up generously the faster and better your pup performs on cue for you! Why? Because believe it or not, dogs will actually try harder and perform better for you if they don’t know for sure when that treat is coming! Try it and see for yourself!