From time to time in my articles, I mention treat streaming. In this article I want to explain exactly what I mean by that.
What is treat streaming?
Treat streaming is a term I use to describe the rapid delivery of treats when establishing a new skill with your dog.
Treat streaming means giving a dog a treat, then immediately giving him another, then another, then another, initially without pause. This one of the key dog training techniques in the toolbox of all successful trainers.
Probably sounds a bit crazy to many of you! But there is method in the madness
When treat streaming, gradually, during the process of a training session, the spaces between the delivery of each treat are increased. But why would someone use this technique?
What is treat streaming used for?
Treat streaming is a great way of establishing duration to a new behaviour, or to an existing behaviour in a new place. I’ll give you an example in a moment. Treat streaming is particularly important for anyone that aspires to train with no aversives whatsoever.
Some dogs may climb all over you when you sit on the floor, spin around when you pay them any attention, and glue themselves to your hand licking and sniffing after you have given them a treat.
You can use treat streaming, to calm down this kind of dog and get them engaged with the training process.
Without being overwhelmed by the attention or by the presence of food.
Adding duration to a new behaviour is probably the most useful role for treat streaming
When you first teach a dog to stay in the sit or down position, it is common for the dog to keep getting up or moving as you start to add duration to the task.
Treat streaming enables you to get duration started without the dog making any errors in this respect.
Example exercise – adding duration to a sit
- Cue the dog to sit (say “sit”)
- Feed the dog every second for ten seconds
- Cue the release and throw a treat for him to chase and pick up
Repeat one through three several times then proceed to this
- Cue the dog to sit
- Feed the dog three treats at two seconds intervals then six treats at one treat per second.
- Cue the release and throw a treat
What you are doing, is increasing the gap between the treats. You are feeding a tiny treat, pause (count one thousand two thousand in your head) then another tiny treat, pause. Etc.
Finish on a high
Don’t do anything that might trigger the dog to get up during the pauses as you increase them.
Don’t move your legs, talk to the dog or wave your hands around. These are distraction and need to be dealt with separately
Finish the session with more rapid streaming. Give treat after treat in quick succession.
Over time, you simply increase the gaps between treats.
Move on from two seconds, to three second gaps, then five, then seven, then ten. Keep going until there are thirty second gaps between each treat.
Treat streaming for heel work
Walking at heel is a long duration activity that many people struggle with. Often because they are adding duration too fast and fading rewards too quickly.
Focus on treat streaming will help you get those first steps at heel established and is a great way to teach your dog to heel past distractions.
Why do we need treat streaming?
Many people crossing over from traditional dog training methods fail profoundly in their delivery of rewards, making them far to infrequent in the early stages of training. I did this myself to begin with. It’s a natural part of our reluctance to embrace the use of food.
Treat streaming is simply a way of acknowledging that the delivery of food rewards must come at a very high rate to begin with, if you are to be successful in training without any aversives at all
Essentially, treat streaming is all about setting your dog up to win. Don’t be mean, keep those treats coming fast in the early stages of learning. You’ll benefit and so will your dog.
Is this a technique you use? Do you have any other examples of situations where it is useful?