All of my dogs are pretty treat-motivated, which makes training super duper easy for me. With Maggie & Sadie, weening them off being treated for every sit was pretty easy; it just happened. With Mr. Hurley, it has proven to be more difficult. 9 times out of 10, if I don't have a treat in my hand, he doesn't sit (or lay down or shake, etc). He just looks at me. He usually barks at me - "Hey, Mom, go get a treat and then we can do business!"
I was getting frustrated. He's had sit and down for months, yet I can rarely get him to obey unless there's a treat in my hand, if he will sit at all. When we are doing training "sessions", I don't treat for a sit as the focus now is on other commands - like stay, leave it or high five. He gets an occasional treat for sit in these sessions but only when his butt hits the ground in a nano-second and there is no shifting, backing up or barking at me going on. However, I need him to just sit sometimes - like at curbs or when a customer is checking out at the store. These are the situations where if there's no treat, I get no sit.
I had an A-Ha moment last week and remembered the clicker. I've been terrible about incorporating the clicker into training; the fault lies with my inconsistency - the Hurley-man did take to the clicker splendidly when I introduced it a couple months ago. My goal is to create alternative rewards to food - clicker and praise being those alternative rewards.
We did one training session with the clicker last Friday and while I still treated after each click, I noticed a couple things. We were working on a new command (touch) and he got it super duper fast. The clicker marked the exact behavior and within one training session, I was able to move from touching my hand with his mouth open to just touching with his nose. Second, he is rough with taking treats and the clicker helped put space between when he knows he did the right thing and my hand getting mauled - the end result being that I interjected "easy" between the click and treat and he really seemed to make some serious advancement in not trying to bite off my fingers.
As we move forward with clicker training, my intent is to click at each individual behavior but reward with a treat randomly. For instance, when I ask him to sit behind the counter at the store he get a click for sit. Then I ask him to stay and he gets a click and treat for staying for a minute. Sometimes he'll get the treat at the sit and sometimes at the stay. But he'll always get the click. I need to work with the clicker consistently for the next week (and treat with each click) before I start the randomizing of the treats.
I see a Hurley showing off clicker training video in our future!