Rethinking How We Use The Word Treat In Dog Training

Two of the Definitions of Treat as found both in Miriam Webster and Oxford Dictionaries

a: to provide with free food, drink, or entertainment 

b: to provide with enjoyment or gratification.

As a noun: The definition of a treat is something pleasant that is unexpected or that is offered as a surprise or a reward.

Collins Dictionary:  Definition of Reinforcer: a stimulus such as a reward, that increases the chance of producing a desired response by being applied after the desired response.


There are many definitions of the word “treat” including to pay for someone’s meal, to treat a patient, to treat a person badly or well as well as to receive something unexpected..

When working with dogs, it’s my belief most people have hesitation or objection to using food as it’s immediately thought of as definition b: to provide with enjoyment or gratification.


When thinking of the food you give your dog during  a training session as a treat, it can seem frivolous.

Yet, when thinking of the food a reinforcer, something which will increase  desired behaviour, it takes on a totally different tone.


In my opinion, if people thought of food less as frivolous treats and understood food used properly in dog training leads to more desired behaviour, there would be fewer objections to using it.