Karen how often do you reward Kodi? Is it after every command or every other time? When do you phase out the treats? I know they say gradually but what is gradually?
It TOTALLY depends on what we are doing. He doesn't get rewards for following simple "manners" commands EVER at this point in his life, but remember, he's almost 6, and very well trained. He gets rewarded for NEW behaviors every time we work on them, and then we often work on things in pieces, so he might get rewarded just for a single piece of an exercise.
Every other time would be a VERY bad idea… it wouldn't take long for the dog to catch on to that schedule, and decide there was no reason to do it the "other" time, because he wasn't going to get paid anyway! When an exercise is about 80% reliable, it's time to go to a variable rate of reinforcement. Which means just that. You might reward 3 times in a row the skip one, then reward twice then skip three… This is MUCH harder than it seems. Humans like order and regularity. You really have to THINK about randomizing reinforcement.
Even when the dog knows the exercises VERY well, it can also depend on the day. After I was away for a week recently, I took Kodi to class, and I could tell he didn't have much enthusiasm. So I really increased the rate of reinforcement… to the point that I was rewarding every set up and every few steps of heeling. As his head got more in the game, and he was clearly having more fun, I was able to go back to a closer to regular rate of reinforcement.
From what I see, people are too worried about getting rid of reinforcers too soon… or they do what my instructor calls "chumming the waters". That is feeding aimlessly, with no thought to whether the reward was earned or not. Also remember that rewards don't ALWAYS have to mean food. The more play rewards you can build in (throw a ball, tug a toy, jump up and touch your hand…) or "touch" rewards (Kodi likes a little scratch on his chest) the better. It shouldn't ALL be about food!