Treats are one of the most effective ways we train our pooches, and also, a common way to give affection. While treating your dog every once and a while and for their good work in training procedures is great, it is common for owners to be treating their dogs for something other than good behavior without them even knowing it.
If your dog is twitchy or excitable as soon as they see a treat, you could actually be ultimately rewarding them for their hyperactivity, rather than the trick they performed or the training they completed. You will know if your dog is in a submissive state if he: waits for you quietly, his eyes follow you but he does not move unless commanded to, listens to your commands and follows through, gently accepts the treat. If your dog is, on the other hand: moving around, twitching every time you move, performing tricks without being commanded to, edging closer to your hand, nipping at the treat before it is given to him – he is not in a calm state. Therefore, you are rewarding your dog for his erratic behavior.
Lucas does this all the time: I take out a treat for him and he immediately sits and throws his paw in the air. If I give him the treat then, I am rewarding him for his tricks, yes, but I am also rewarding him for the automatic behavior rather than what I wanted him to do (which may have been to sit and give me his paw, but he didn’t hear me command that, which is why he isn’t technically listening to me). It’s a thin line between really listening and automatic behaviors, but if your dog is always performing his best tricks before you’ve opened your mouth to command him or even taken the treat out of the bag, it’s time to reevaluate the reward system and figure out how to calm your dog around treats.
If I, for example, do want Lucas to sit and give me his paw, but he has already done so without my command, I will make him get up, come to another part of the room, and command him to sit. When he sits by my command I will reward him. Then, if he starts giving me his paw, I will keep redirecting him to other parts of the room to make him sit and start over. Once he realizes I am not asking for his paw, then I will command him to do so, and reward him. If your dog has fallen into some bad habits without you even really noticing, redirection is key. Break the habits by establishing new ones.
Hopefully this helps anyone who feels like treat time is chaotic!