Thursday, April 20, 2017

Myths and Facts about Using Food for Training Dogs

  1. Treats are bribes. MYTH! Treats are used as reinforcers. a bribe and a reinforcer are not the same thing. A reinforcer becomes a bribe when it is produced before the desired behavior.  If you show the dog a treat before asking them to do something, you are doing it wrong.
  1. If I use food, my dog will not obey me without the food.  MYTH! The only reason your dog would refuse to perform a behavior without food is because s/he's used to seeing it beforehand. You're doing it wrong!

  1. My dog should just work because they want to please me. MYTH! Some people think that dogs should find working for their humans inherently rewarding.  They don’t!  When you think about it, it's pretty silly. While dogs and humans have lived side-by-side for a really long time, are uniquely suited to work together,  the idea that this relationship is so one sided that dogs will perform for no tangible rewards is anthropomorphism - attributing human characteristics and purposes to your dog.
  1. Dogs should just work for praise. MYTH! Closely related to #3.  Some dogs find praise rewarding, and it's also possible to condition praise as a reinforcer, but the idea that all or even most dogs are eager to work for just a pat on the head is just a fantasy.
  1. Training for treats is fine for teaching tricks, but not for "real" training.  MYTH! Dogs do not know the difference between tricks and training and they do not take one less seriously than the other.
           FACT!  If you using training treats/food wisely, they will be out of the picture pretty quickly.  Then you will randomly reward once a new behavior is trained. You will also provide alternative life rewards as reinforcement for behaviors you teach your dog.

Training treats and food are just tools.  They are the most commonly used reinforcer for trainers that emphasize positive reinforcement for this simple reason: food is the greatest common denominator for reinforcers.

The notion that training with treats leads to people walking around with treats in their pockets for as long as they have their dogs is based on a very poor understanding of how science based dog training works. 

Click here to read more about using food to train dogs

©Robin Sockness, My Best Buddy Dog Training and Behavior Solutions
My Best Buddy Dog Training

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