I have a six-month-old dog. I don't know his breed. I adopted him.

So I try to train him by myself. Before start, I put some treats in my pocket. I give him the command or I throw the ball. He does it right. So I give him a treat.

After that, I can't train him anymore because he loses focus on training and starts to sniffing around. Rapidly he finds my pocket full of treats. All he pays attention to now is my pocket. Training is over.

Any advice for this situation?

  • Knowing the breed is important. Different breeds react to actions/events in different ways. Have you tried using a clicker while training? I've found it to be effective towards energetic dogs who seem to get distracted/curious easily, and it's commonly used in commercial training for shaping. Look into operant conditioning
    – Dioxin
    Jul 10 '17 at 19:10
  • Train him to sit first thing and everything will get better. Do that by slowly pushing your dog in a sit stance and have the treat be ontop of his head. Make him look up and have it. From now on don't have the treats in your pocket, have it in it's package or your hand. Let the dog sniff your pockets so it can know for sure that there are no treats there. And start the training procedure all over again. Jul 10 '17 at 20:17
  • I posted an answer below, but wanted to add that sniffing is often a sign of stress during training. In addition to looking into motivators, make sure you're not over-doing your training sessions. They only need to be a couple minutes at a time. Keeping the criteria consistent will also help with this.
    – jeffaudio
    Jul 10 '17 at 23:41

By the sounds of it, you are only exposing a treat when he executes the command.

You should try lure training. In simple terms, the idea is

to show your dog exactly what is required and to reward it for complying

Your dog may not be familiar with the idea of reacting to your voice to gain a reward. Lure training is a great way to shape him, exposing him to the idea above. If he's looking for more treats after being rewarded, he hasn't made the connection of "I should do [trick] whenever owner does [command]". You should be using the treats as a bridge.

Even worse, you may be making establishing the connection of "anytime I see a treat, I'll get to eat it" by only exposing the treat when the command is executed. This could encourage the dog to look for more treats, as he may be interpreting the ball as playing rather than fetching on your behalf.

  • Expose the treat to gain your dog's interest
    • let him know you're the treat dispatcher
    • keep his attention.
  • If he gets excited, wait for him to calm down
    • try to detach there is a treat here from you get a treat

From there, use the treat to lure him into simple positions, such as sitting (usually performed automatically after a short while of not getting the treat) or laying (easy to bring your dog to ground level with the treat). Eventually you'll stray away from luring and use the treat simply as a reinforcement stimuli. Invest in a clicker as a cheaper reinforcement stimuli once your dog is familiar with commands.


I think one of the key things here is to find out what your dog really loves, and remember that it doesn't have to be one kind of treat, or even food at all. Dogs can be motivated by any number of things to varying degrees:

  • Food
  • Toys
  • Experiences

Within each of these categories you can see differing reactions. For example, a dog might enjoy getting kibble, but go crazy for a piece of cheese. Another dog might not care for either but really love playing tug or chasing a ball.

Think about some of the things your dog really loves (and it can be literally anything that won't hurt them) and then use that as a reward. Here are some examples to give you an idea of the range of rewards

Food: Food fed for dinner, kibble not used at mealtimes, any variety of dog treats, hot dogs, cheese, boiled chicken, salmon

Toys: Tugging on fluffy toys, tugging on hard toys, chasing a ball, chasing a frisbee, catching a ball, chasing a person, chewing on a bone, playing with an old sock

Experiences: Verbal praise, extra games, petting, shoving, chasing a squirrel, sniffing a garden, rolling in something smelly, meeting someone new, working with their person, learned cues

The possibilities are endless, but finding the right motivation can be difficult. Once you've found out what motivates your dog, you can then use that to your advantage. Make sure that you're controlling the reinforcement though because if he learns he can just give up and come get treats from your pocket, he'll do that. Dogs are great trainers of their humans.

  • What if the dog really loves the treats, and the reward itself isn't the problem? That kinda invalidates this answer. "Learning a new trick" doesn't make sense as a reward for learning a trick. The repetition isn't the problem: "I give him the command or I throw the ball. He does it right. So I give him a treat. After that, I can't train him anymore because he loses focus on training and starts to sniffing around.", so I'm not seeing how this answers the question.
    – Dioxin
    Jul 10 '17 at 23:56
  • If the dog truly loved the treats, he wouldn't be sniffing the ground. He'd be trying to get the treats. I agree there is more going on here with the method of training that is also causing the dog to lose interest which I commented about above, but the way the question was worded made me believe the OP was asking primarily for other kinds of motivation. As for learning a new trick, some dogs simply love working with their people and figuring out puzzles. I've edited it to be more clear.
    – jeffaudio
    Jul 11 '17 at 11:12

So, I know men don't want to hear this suggestion- sorry guys- but placement is everything. Get a sports bra for women OR SIMILAR example shirt with front pocket, or a wrap or way to maneuver and store the treats up high on your body, under your clothes.

Maybe zipper locking them instead of loosely in your pocket will help too.

If it were me, I wouldn't give up on the treats just yet. If you start putting them in a zip bag before putting them on you (pocket or other options), your dog may also associate the crunching of the bag with treats, kinda like clicker training, where a noise is associated as a positive reinforcement, in front of the treats....

People have made comments about the breed of your dog and it's importance, but the truth is, your dog may have very strong genes that cause him to behave one way or another, have better sense of smell or sight, or hearing than others but what matters is- do you know how to recognize certain behavior and how you as a leader and human need to work around it. You have recognized 1- your dog needs training, 2- he's smart, 3- he always finds the treats in your pocket (could be great sense of smell -out like a type of hound, could be great tracking skills and instinct like German Shepherds... But my point is YOU are recognizing this without knowing it's breed, and you're reaching out to get help with a fix.

Does your dog respond well to behavioral/attitude positive reinforcement like being petted or being told "good boy/girl/name", in a happy tone? If you do choose to give up on the treats, some dogs do very well with behavior enforcement... I have a papillon who will do just about anything for me to give her a super vigorous chest rub, ear rub and a "good girl Abby!" In my high pitched happy voice. After her trick, she looks up at me and waits for my reaction and gets excited/pumped up and happy with my same style reaction. If you're dog is a people pleaser, it you notice him looking up at you for guidance often, this might just work for your training.

Good luck!

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