Using food in training is a common way reward-based trainers teach their four-legged pupils. There are several reasons why using food is such a powerful and useful tool in training. First, a dog will only learn what you are teaching it if it is motivated by something that happens afterwards, i.e. something you can provide—and most dogs want food! Behavior is governed by its consequences. If it ‘works’ (he got a treat) then the dog will try again. If it doesn’t, then he will try something else. Don’t all of us expect a paycheck at the end of the month for ‘work’ (in essence-certain behaviors) we do every day?! If a dog isn’t motivated, it isn’t going to try. And if it isn’t trying, you won’t be teaching it anything! Especially if you are trying to teach it to do something that isn’t natural for it to do or it prefers to do something else instead—like sitting when greeting a new person instead of jumping to greet that person. If your paycheck stopped coming, wouldn’t your work behaviors cease also?
Secondly, it also helps that since you possess the food you can control its delivery to your dog. You choose the point at which they have ‘earned’ a goodie. They will try that again, since they want more goodies! Once you have trained a behavior so that your dog is responding reliably (i.e. they understand what you are asking of them) you move to a more intermittent schedule of rewards-meaning you don’t have to give a treat EVERY time your dog sits, just some of the time, and eventually, sitting when you ask is a habit and you can fade out the treats altogether. For more information or to contact me, visit pawsitiveencounters.com.
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