Great Bait Bag Debate
A few months ago, I saw a discussion on Facebook between a few dog training folks that essentially blamed people who wear bait bags for ruining the reputation of positive reinforcement trainers. Personally, I disagree, but I wanted to open up the debate.
Their argument, as I understand it, is that far too many people who know a little (but not a lot) about positive reinforcement dog training:
- Overuse treats in general
- Use treats incorrectly (as lures rather than rewards)
- Don’t fade treats soon enough
- And, the like
I’m sure that’s probably true, but as someone who has spent 6+ years using both classical and operant conditioning with Lilly in various scenarios … I’m sure as shooting NOT going to carry food when we are in public just because it might give someone the wrong idea.
Let’s take a regular walk as an example. Does Lilly know how to walk nicely on a leash? You bet. Does she really need rewards for this particular task in and of itself. Nope. Still … a little variable reinforcement never hurts.
HOWEVER, what about all the things I cannot control when we are in public:
- Other dogs
- Overly friendly toddlers
- Scary noises
Any and all of these situations can turn a routine walk into something else entirely. I’d rather be prepared for a teachable moment, than not.
Where the comparison chafes…
So, why would someone being negative about a bait bag bother me so much?
Well, I think it’s because people often say that it isn’t dominance theory that is so terrible but that it’s the application by those who know a little (but not a lot) about it.
I’m probably making a giant leap here, but I certainly don’t put having treats on hand in the same thematic zone as someone who lays on top of their dog and growls in the pup’s face.
What say you?
Do you think most of us need to fade the bait bag sooner or entirely? Even if you’re a positive-reinforcement trainer, would you frown on someone like me for having food at the ready?
(Fearfuldog’s recent post: Dog Training in the Real World takes on a similar topic. It’s worth a read.)