When you research about dog training these days, you will hear a lot about positive reinforcement training and the use of food, and this is for a very good reason.  We want to motivate our dogs to do as we ask rather than bribing them or even worse, forcing them unwillingly to do what we want.


Its all about motivation

To use motivation in training, we have to use something that the dog needs and/or wants – and that’s why food is the perfect choice.  It is something that your dog needs to survive and so, is a very valuable commodity in his eyes.  Just as you wouldn’t see the point in going to work, putting in 8 hours and only getting a few cents in your pay packet,  your dog also needs to see the value in you and what you are asking of him for him to put in the effort to listen and learn.  Enter, the food reward.  Rest assured though, an experienced trainer will use food in a way that you don’t have to carry around a treat pouch forever.


What happens if I don’t use food rewards the right way?


The technical term for this process  is  called “classical conditioning” and a puzzle piece that is commonly missed.   It allows us to largely wean the food rewards away  as the dog learns and gains understanding.  Food rewards are now widely used by many owners and it is also very common for them to say “my dog will do whatever I say – if I have food with me.”    All their good intentions to train their dog with food has now become nothing but bribery.  That’s why its so important to do it correctly so that your dog learns to learn and becomes addicted to working and being with you and not because he thinks of you as a food dispenser.


What sort of food rewards/treats should I use?


In the early stages of training your dog, you will use a lot of food rewards.  The good news is that you don’t have to buy expensive dog treats, liver treats, etc to use in your training and in fact, in most circumstances, your dogs’ own food is preferable so his nutritional requirements are met every day.


Won’t my dog get fat with all the food rewards I’m using in training?


I find that a lot of clients are surprised when I tell them  “your dog  doesn’t have to eat his meals from a bowl.  Just put his meal portion in a bowl and use this for training throughout the day.”  At the end of the day, whatever is left you can put in his bowl, sprinkle it out on the grass or hide it around yard and house for him to search for.    This way, your dog is getting the correct nutrition, he isn’t getting addition food to make him put on weight, and he remains motivated throughout the day.



Can I leave his food in his bowl all day so he can pick at it when he wants and just use special treats for training?


There are a couple of parts to answering this question.

Firstly, “special treats” are usually not nutritionally balanced and in fact, many are pretty low quality with regards to ingredients and nutrition.  They also usually quite expensive.

Secondly, remember that when you train your dog, you are looking to motivate him to make training fun and something he looks forward to.  If he always has access to eat his food throughout the day, he won’t value it and will start only eating the treats.

Training your dog is a lifetime journey and is really enjoyable  when you are clear about how to go about it and fulfilling for you and your dog when you reach your goals.

If you need a hand to kick off your training journey, just click on the contact page and we can get started