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I usually use this little treats to teach my dog when he's behaving properly or when learning some trick and they work really well, he loves them.

When I take him outside to play (I usually take him on weekends to throw a frisbee) I want to reward him for catching the disc on the air or if he obeys when I tell him to stay. But in these cases he completely looses interest on the treats and won't eat them. The only thing in his mind is the frisbee and nothing else (it was difficult to teach him to stay and not run right away every time the disc is flying).

He obviously gets overexcited about the disc (we only let him play with it outside), but why would that make him reject the treats? I have tried to use the throwing of the disc instead as a reward, but it is much simpler to use the treats.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

If a dog is too excited by something (either positive or negative) he may refuse a treat that he would normally accept. You can think about it this way:

You're walking down the street and see a quarter. You might bend down and pick it up. But what if you also see a $100 bill a few feet down the road? You're much less likely to pick that quarter up. At this point for you it's essentially lost its value.

The same thing is happening with your dog and the frisbee. He is so excited to see the frisbee that he simply doesn't care about the treat anymore.

So what are you to do? First, remember that you already have a frisbee which you can use to reward his actions and has a very high value for him. You can use it by asking for the behavior and rewarding by giving him permission to play a game of frisbee. Sometimes though that may not be feasible.

Another thing you can do is increase the value of the treat and show your dog he can't get the frisbee unless he gets the treat first. Let him cool off a bit until he's mentally willing to get the treat. As soon as he does, let him go get the frisbee. Eventually you'll have a dog willing to work for both treats AND frisbees!

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With the treats I was trying to encourage him for jumping and fetch the disc in the air. Following your example, if you have the option of winning $100 or $110, although little difference, the later is the best option. I was trying to make more worthwhile for him to go the extra mile and jump. I might try to wait until he cools down and see if that helps. Although giving the treat is not that important, I would say that teaching him to be more relaxed even when playing can only be a good thing. – Jorge Aug 12 '14 at 16:36

Don't forget that it is the dog who decides what's a reward, what's not or what's a punishment. So in your case he chose that the best reward is catching the frisbee.

Don't worry about it and use it to teach him new tricks: sit and stay until I release you and you go catch the frisbee, heel, or any other trick.

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For those tricks I already use the throwing of the disc as a reward. What I missed to explain in the question is that I looked for an extra reward when he fetches the disc on the air for example. Then the disc can't be used as a reward. – Jorge Aug 12 '14 at 16:28
Excellent. Then you can have an exciting reward matching well exciting behaviors and use the treats as a calm reward, for calm behavior. That way you don't interrupt a calm activity with a sudden super active reward. – Cedric H. Aug 12 '14 at 16:50

It's nothing too complicated, he probably just doesn't want to miss a chance to chase the frisbee.

I would suggest getting some treats that have a stronger smell, and don't require chewing (the size of your fingernail, sort of thing)

That way he'll be more interested in taking the treat and swallowing it quickly, and he can keep his eye on the frisbee.

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This treats are really tiny, meant for this kind of case. It is not a matter of smell either. Usually he notices the treat, but quickly decides to ignore it as it is more important to wait for the disk. – Jorge Aug 12 '14 at 16:26

If the dog is sufficiently rewarded by the activity itself you do not need treats, which will only distract from what you're trying to train. He doesn't want it, that's a good sign that he's been rewarded enough. The idea behind training is to eventually make the dog happy with nothing more than your approval. You're getting there, don't hinder progress toward that by insisting on treats.

In addition to that, your offering of the treat may be rewarding a behavior you don't want. No treats should ever be given to dogs jumping up and down. If your dog is so excited he's ignoring treats, he probably shouldn't be rewarded for that.

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-1 for incoherence in that last paragraph. – Jeremy Aug 12 '14 at 4:58
If you didn't understand that, you need to explain why. It's perfectly clear English. – Jasmine Aug 12 '14 at 16:09
Of course, the treat is not given as he is jumping and active, only when he has brought back the disk and sits to wait for the next time I throw it. The idea for giving the treat is as a special reward when he manages to fetch the frisbee in the air. I can't see any incoherence either, further explanation of what Jeremy means would be appreciated. – Jorge Aug 12 '14 at 16:23
"jumping up and down" -- where does the OP mention this? If he's jumping to get the frisbee after it's thrown, that's normal behavior and in actuality should be rewarded. The second sentence is also a paradox. If he's ignoring the treats, he can't be rewarded via the treats for that behavior... he's ignoring them. In other words, you can't be rewarded for ignoring something via the thing you're ignoring. – Jeremy Aug 12 '14 at 16:36
While it is true I never mentioned that I'm trying to reward the dog while he is jumping around me, I considered that as an extra piece of information that doesn't hurt to be there. For the second sentence, I am not so sure. He might not want to eat the treat, but I am still trying to give it to him, something that in other conditions would be a clear reward. Maybe he is psychologically rewarded by the simple fact of smelling it. Or maybe not, it could go both ways. – Jorge Aug 12 '14 at 17:00

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