I was walking my almost 14 year old boy this morning, randomly offering a treat as we meandered. 

I began thinking about those who don’t believe in using food for training and some of their reasons for it. 

One of the big ones constantly brought up is the misguided belief that food will forever have to be used in order to get the desired behaviour. Food used correctly, is not a problem. Improper use of food in training is the problem.

For anyone who has taught a young child to ride a bike – do you still run behind your 15 or 20 year old, praising, clapping and cheering? Or did you fade that out once the skill was mastered? Food used correctly, is faded out as reinforcement.

I like using food in training. It gets results. My dogs like it. It’s easy to use. 

I don’t want to get caught up in the argument about always needing food to get specific behaviour and your dog should do it for praise only.  

“My dog will only sit if I have a treat in my hand” is a statement illustrating a poorly trained behaviour due to incorrect use of food as a reinforcer. It’s not an indicator that using food in dog training means you always have to use it.

My dogs will do as asked within a reasonable amount of time. If they don’t, it’s not because they are waiting for the food. It’s because the behaviour is likely not trained fully or properly.

At this point in my dog’s life, I use food as an expression of love and affection – unless I am training a new skill. Then, I use food as a reinforcer and fade it out appropriately. 

I happily and freely offer treats to my dog while on walks – and always will. I carry food on me all the time.  It’s not an indicator my dog is not trained. 

It just means, my dogs enjoy a treat sometimes, just as I do.