Using Food in Training. Why Not?

One of the biggest misconceptions frequently brought up by clients and others, is the belief that food will forever have to be used in order to get a desired behaviour. Food used correctly, is not a problem. Improper use of food in training is the problem. Ask any client of mine how I nit pick about keeping food out of sight until after they have marked (a signal indicating to the dog he did the correct thing) the desired behaviour.

I like using food in training. It gets results. My dogs liked it. It’s easy to use and keep in a pocket. Charlee Bear turkey treats were always in my pocket when I left the house. I had a jar beside the front door so I could grab a few on the way out. Sometimes I used them. Sometimes not. My dog’s behaviour didn’t rely on having them.

“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 itself means you always have to use it.

My dogs did as asked within a reasonable amount of time. If they didn’t, it was not because they were waiting for the food. It was because the behaviour was likely not trained fully or they were not feeling safe at that time.

I used food just because I wanted to sometimes – unless I was training a new skill. Then, I used food as a reinforcer and faded it out appropriately once the behaviour became a habit.

I happily and freely offered treats to my dogs while on walks. I carried food on me all the times.  Doing so is not an indicator of an untrained dog. 

It just meant, my dogs enjoyed a treat sometimes, just as I do.