Is Treat Training Bad? Why I Use Food Instead Of Force For Training Dogs.

Is Treat Training Bad? Why I Use Food Instead Of Force For Training Dogs.

Almost every dog can be motivated by food and treats which makes it a very powerful tool when training your dog.

It’s been proven time and time after time that dogs being trained with positive reinforcement techniques naturally learn faster and have more fun during the training sessions.

Here are some common myths you may hear about treats thanks to Eric Goelbelbecker:

"Treats are bribes." This myth is the old standard. The "Greensleeves" of treat disparagement, if you will. Let’s be clear: a bribe and a reinforcer are not the same thing. A bribe is produced before the desired behavior, a reinforcer is produced after the behavior. Yes, some people do show their dogs a treat before asking them to do something. They’re doing it wrong.

"If you use food, your dogs will not obey you without it." Here again is a myth based on bad training. The only reason your dog would refuse to perform without food is because she’s used to seeing it beforehand. You’re doing it wrong.

"Dogs should work because they want to please you." Some people seem to think that dogs should find working for their people inherently rewarding, like Jeeves and Wooster, or Smithers and Burns. When you think about it, it’s pretty silly. Yes, it’s true that dogs and humans have lived side-by-side for millennia, and as a result we are uniquely suited to work together, but the idea that this relationship is so one-sided that dogs will perform for no tangible reward makes no sense and is anthropomorphism, plain and simple. It’s nice, it’s romantic, and it makes for a great tear-jerker, but sorry folks; Disney dogs exist only in Disney movies.

"Dogs should work for praise." Closely related to the the previous myth is the idea that dogs find praise inherently rewarding. Some dogs actually do find praise rewarding, and it’s also possible to condition praise as a reinforcer (it may even happen as a side effect of a good relationship), but the idea that all or even most dogs are eager to work for just a pat on the head or a "good dog" is more fantasy.

"Training for treats is fine for tricks, but not for "real training." I really find this one mystifying, but actually see it most often expressed by trainers. Is it that dogs instinctively know the difference between tricks and "real training" and take one less seriously than the other? Or maybe that behaviors trained without food are more reliable? What makes them more reliable? A lack of food? An emphasis on punishment or the threat of punishment? Maybe it’s that inherently rewarding praise? Why would one reinforcer always lead to less reliable performance than another, regardless of the situation and individual dog?

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