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Treat Training OK for Mastiff-Type Puppy?

May 4th, 2005, 09:09 PM
Hi there,

I heard from a dog trainer today who has experience with Mastiff's that he said he would advise against using treat based training, as it could result in challenge issues later in adolescence. I was wondering what people's experiences with this particular concern would be. I understand that some don't use treat training for other reasons, aka making the dog work for you out of respect and love, not treats. And that is something I want to work toward, but I have been using treats to get him over his fears when we he sees something he is afraid of, i.e. see something scary and pou on the treats just before he actually gets afraid. I have also been using treats as luring into sit and down positions. I have the tenderfoot dvd's on order and can't wait to get them, but in the meantime...this works. Will it backfire later?


May 5th, 2005, 11:33 AM
Thanks so much for ordering the DVD!
I really like that you are trying to think this through.There is nothing wrong with giving your pup a treat just for being a great puppy, but you want to give him a great, confident parent most of all. You don't have to work towards love, trust and respect - it happens today!
There are much more effective ways of working through fears than pouring on the treats. There is value to having a fear and working through it instead of avoiding it with a face full of cookies. Imagine yourself as a little girl and you see your first horse - you are a little scared and mom starts loading you up with cookies. Did you learn not to be afraid or how to overcome your fears? Or maybe you learned that showing fear gets you tons of cookies. It would be better for you to expereince the insecurity you are feeling, watch mom pet the horse and have fun (mom is confident), and then move towards the horse when you are ready to join in. Next time I bet you would not be as scared and you would move towards the horse much faster because last time wasn't as bad as you thought.
Sometimes using a treat/toy as a lure is fine - just try not to make it the reward. Use your soft voice and touch to reward.
There is also the fact that puppies get into the habit of looking for the treat and thinking all treats are for them. I was working a 5 mo G. Shep pup yesterday and he was the sweetest thing - painfully sweet - but when his mother pulled out the treats he was lunging at her hands with teeth bared. He wan't trying to be mean, he was simply trying to grab treats. If he did this to an unwitting stranger who had a cookie in her hand she would have been scared silly. You have to be careful when working with potentially scarey looking dogs. People can suddenly accuse you of having an aggressive dog when all he was doing was looking for treats - and the courts have to err on the side of public safety. So be careful.

May 5th, 2005, 04:44 PM
Hi there!

I'm not as experienced as some mastiff owners, but I can tell you that your mastiff puppy is a stomach on legs, so training with treats generally works great! However, I have discovered that the treat doesn't have to be very substantial. I used those little "Pounce" cat treats and my mastiffs were just as happy with them as with something bigger. -- and giving them a tiny snack helps to reinforce being gentle -- although an excited mastiff will grab your finger instead of the food -- but they soon learn to take it easy.

I would not rely entirely on treats though -- most mastiffs crave affection and approval and will perform for the pleasure of hearing you make those excited happy noises.

One word of caution -- mastiffs are usually very eager to please but at the same time can be extremely stubborn. A harsh word will devastate your puppy so if he is not doing what you want him to do, don't push. go back and do something he already knows and leave the problem task for another time.

Lucky Rescue
May 5th, 2005, 05:28 PM
I used those little "Pounce" cat treats and my mastiffs were just as happy with them as with something bigger.

My dog will do ANYTHING for one of those, and she can catch one from anyplace I toss it!:p