The vet nurse at my vet told me that since it is 4 weeks since finishing puppy school, Floyd (a Dal) should be able to do all his tricks without food rewards. He does them everytime 'with' food and sometimes (well, hardly ever) without food. Do you think 4 weeks is long enough for him to 'know' the commands and it to be second nature to him and take away ALL treats (like she said to do)? It seems a bit too soon to me. An Australian Dal breeder told me that some Dals don't respond to no food until they grow up (which she said is sometimes as old as 4 years old)!!! Maybe I just have a big bellied lazy puppy or something?
It is probably pretty average to be off treats, but I don't thinks it's abnormal. I always say to go on clicker training. First you use treats and the clicker to get them used to it being a good thing, then slowly cut back until you ue just the clicker, and then to just words.
It should be easy enough to get your dog off treats by going to a variable reinforcement schedule. This will actually make a behavior stronger (like when you find change in a coke machine - how many times do you keep checking, but don't find change?) Start by continuing to reward with treats, but start giving the treats only 80 to 90% of the time (make sure you don't do this in a pattern) Then, go to about 70% of the tricks being reinforced with treats, then 60, etc. etc. Always use your voice and praise him every time he does something right - eventually he will listen to you without treats. Clicker training can make this process a little more fun, not to mention precise (as long as your timing is good), but it is only a tool, and not a necessity. Positive reinforcement and consistency is the key.
Floyd is still pretty young. Younger dog are driven by food. I think 4 weeks is a bit quick. You would have to be working with him quite a bit for that. I would not worry too much about tricks for treats, but if you are cut them out completely. Use praise and play instead. Clicker training is a pretty good idea, too.
Today I was using carrots to train Barbie and Rogue together. It worked great. I realized while doing this that I hold the treat with out giving it to them until a few commands are performed. They sit, lay dow, roll over, then treat. New trick I do treat more often so that they figure out exactly what thing they should do. I bought a large bag of baby carrots and boiled them. They are in the refridgerator. I grab a few and hold them in my hand that I am signaling with. Sometimes the smell is enought reward. I do break off small pieces and don't give the whole treat.
It does seem a little harsh, I do beleieve that when you train a dog that food rewards should be given in the beginning and slowly decrease the treats as rewards or mixed with verbal praise to keep the dog guessing. I wouldn't expect perfection from any dog, especially a puppy.