Why Do I Toss Treats Away When I Clicker Train My Cat?

If you watch me train my cat Jones, you've probably noticed that when he gets a behaviour correct, I often throw the treat away, so he has to find it. Why I throw treats during our training sessions is one of the most common questions I get asked.

Five Scenarios To Use The Tossing A Treat Technique

  • Exercise
    Jones is not the most athletic little guy, so I take advantage of any opportunity to give him more activity. If he goes over a jump, I will often toss the treat the opposite direction, so he has to go back over the jump to get it. I'm sneaky that way!

  • Beginning and ending training sessions
    When I'm setting up for a training session that uses props, I don't want Jones to interact with them before I'm ready to train him. I toss a treat away to keep him busy until I'm ready to work with him. When I end a session, I also throw a treat away which creates a short break to set up for a new trick and let Jones know we finished the previous one.

  • Recall
    When I practice recall, I throw a treat a way to get some distance between us. Then I practice calling his name as he approaches me. This method is an easy way to pair the correct behaviour (your cat approaching you with your recall cue).

  • Cats that bite or scratch your hands to get treats
    If you have a cat swatting your hands, I recommend using treat tosses to show them that the treat won't come straight from your hand. The best scenario for grabby cats is to work with a target stick. Touch the stick, toss a treat, repeat.

  • CUPS Scent game
    Do you know that game where I hide a treat in a cup and Jones has to find it? I toss the treat away, hide the treat in one of the cups and when Jones returns he searches for it. This game is so easy you can watch TV while you play.

Watch the video below where I demonstrate each of these examples.

Have fun training!

(After I filmed the video, I realized I forgot to mention how much fun it can be for some cats to chase and search for treats. Foraging for food is a natural behaviour for cats.)

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