Strategic Treat Placement

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Strategic Treat Placement

Description – Strategically using kibble, treats, or other types of food or toys to communicate position and other training information to a dog. Learn that the treat or toy is a piece of communication and the delivery event can be more important than the treat itself.  By being conscientious about strategically placing your treat you can accentuate the effect of the reward and ultimately do a better job of promoting your end goal.  Strategic placement of treats can also prevent undesired behavior.

Prerequisites:  Clicker Basics


When to use Strategy -Always! The reward location and the speed of the reward delivery are both very powerful pieces of information to the dog. It is often a very good idea to practice your reward delivery before working with your dog. This gives you the opportunity to determine if the treat you are using is appropriate for what you are trying to train, if you should be using your left hand, right hand, tossing, placing, using a stick, using a Manners Minder, and any other considerations that will enable you to strategically deliver the reward to the dog and give maximum benefit to the dog and to yourself during training.

Note: when is the treat not the right treat? Sometimes we choose a treat that is difficult to handle for the particular training task. Is the treat too big, is it too small to handle without dropping, is it too wet, etc.

The directions are

  1. Plan your strategy, consider exactly what is your end goal and have one goal for the training trial.
  2. Determine where you will store your treats. Will you be wearing a bait bag, pockets, or will there be plastic containers strategically placed around the room for easy access. You must be able to access your treats conveniently as this also communicates to the dog and promotes your end goal.
  3. Practice your reward delivery without your dog and before you begin training. Determine if your treat is easy to handle, will you need an object such as a Manners Minder, or will you need to toss your treats or carefully hand the treat to the dog. Where will your treats be? Will they be in a container on a shelf, how will you access your treats so that you can give them to your dog strategically, quickly and supporting the specific goal behavior.
  4. Determine if you want your reward to relocate the dog so that the dog must get out of position so that she can practice getting into that position again (an example of this would be the choosing to heel method for leash walking and heeling, a video is available at in our blog.)
  5. Determine if you want your reward to keep your dog in a specific position and maintain that position. Heel is a great example of a behavior that a dog should maintain. Once the dog is in the heel position, you can deliver the treat over the dog’s head or in such a manner that the dog maintains a nice straight heel while taking his reward from you. If you are conscientious about your treat delivery while teaching the dog to maintain a heel position, you will notice that delivering the treat to the left or right side of the muzzle will move the head and thus move the body; each dog is different.
  6. Your delivery event can begin with your enthusiasm and running toward the reward. An example of this may be for a reliable recall. Your reward may be in the refrigerator, and you and your dog may be in your front yard. You recall your dog, she gives you a fabulous recall, you mark with yes or click and then you squeak and run and be very enthusiastic as you both run toward the refrigerator. Upon getting to the refrigerator you open it and generously reward your dog. In this scenario the reward event begins as the dog responds properly to the recall and you mark, squeak and run toward the refrigerator. The reward event begins with the squeaking and running and ends with the actual food reward.