I can completely understand why it would be a worry for some dog owners and to be completely honest, you could easily come to a conclusion that you do not want to “bribe” your dog.
Just to clear it up. Treat training is a way to positively reinforce a behaviour you would like to happen again. However, to some confusion, this is not the only reinforcements you have to use. Some dogs would much prefer a toy than treats, or some may be happy with the praise from your voice. You work to figure out what works best for your dog and use it.
I know… but why should my dog only obey for a treat? Shouldn’t my dog obey me because it wants to please me?
The answer to this question for me is…in the middle. Your dog will always want to please you, but you have to ask yourself; am I asking my dog to obey a command that is unnatural and awkward?
We go to work day in, day out… And we get paid for doing so. Would you call being paid…bribery? I certainly don’t think about it this way. We just would not have an incentive to do so if we didn’t get paid. If we are asking something of our dogs, we need to remember that our dog would not naturally jump through hoops, give you it’s paw or roll over on command, so by asking them to do so, we need to give them an incentive to stay in this weird position.
We train our dogs to give them mental stimulation, but to them (even though they enjoy it) it is work! We are sending them to work and expecting them to complete the same work day in, day out.. but the reward is… Well not food, “because we don’t want to bribe them”
If something is working to make your dog happy and you are gaining the desired behaviour then it really does not matter if you need to use treats. It will just give them that little bit of incentive to carry on. If needed, you can slowly use less treats by “Jackpotting”. This means the dog will continue to perform the task not knowing when the next treat will be dropped. When training using this method, you want to give a treat to the better performed behaviours. For example if you ask your dog to sit, but he sits after many times of repeating, you may only praise with your voice, but if he sits as quick as you would like him too, he then gets the treat. This encourages your dog to perform better next time.
Figure out what works best for your dog and use that to your advantage. If your dog really likes a tug of war game, then use that… As long as it is reinforcing enough to perform your desired behaviour, then your flying.
Always question yourself, always look at what your asking of your dog and continue to learn. Once you learn what motivates your dog, learn how much you need and how long you need in order for him to complete the tasks. Always remember that your dog is following you, work as a team and enjoy yourselves.