When it comes to training your dog, there is a mixed bag of information online. Let’s debunk some common reward-based treat training myths
- Your dog won’t obey you without the treat. Properly conditioned, your dog will not expect the reward, because the treat reward is not given every time. Using treats as bribes however, can result in your dog refusing to obey.
- Using treats is bribery. Let’s be clear, a bribe is something produced before the desired behavior. A reward is produced after the desired behavior. Show your dog the treat after he asked to sit is the correct way to treat.
- Your dogs should just want to please you. Intrinsic value is not something that dogs have a capacity to understand. Despite humans and dogs co-existing for a millenium, the idea of dogs “wanting to please humans” is purely romantic. Yes, there are incredible stories to be heard about dog’s desire to please man, but again, they are stories.
- Your dog should work for praise. Some dogs do enjoy “praise”, but dogs still need more tangible rewards to learn a behavior.
- Treat training is only good for teaching tricks. Dogs, unfortunately, do not know the difference between a trick and “real-training”, and don’t choose to only honor one.
The truth is that food, used properly, is a part of the tool-box of dog training. It’s an easy to use positive reinforcement reward that encourages learning. It should be used wisely during the learning period and used with other positive reinforcement once the dog has learned the appropriate response.