Common Myths About Dog Treats and Training: Debunked!
Whether you’re training your puppy for the first or nth time, it’s important to leverage motivation before you begin. If you aren’t incorporating the proper motivators into your training session, you’re likely to be scratching your head while your pup stares up at you with a frustrating—albeit adorable—look of confusion. When it comes to dog training, one of the most effective motivators is food. Even without the help of a dog behavior specialist, you can often get your pooch to do pretty much anything with a handful of kibble. However, it’s important to avoid falling into the trap of the following myths to foster a more productive environment.
Myth #1 – Food is a Bribe
Regardless of what you might’ve heard in the past, any form of payment is a method of reinforcement. To reinforce operant behavior, it’s important to reward your dog with something they’ll be willing to work for every time. Known commonly as the Eureka Effect, asking your dog to “work” for you to receive their “payment”—food—is effective especially when encouraging a specific type of behavior.
Myth #2 – My Dog Will Overeat
Contrary to popular belief, reinforcing good behavior with a treat won’t cause your pooch to pack on an exorbitant amount of weight. When training any animal, shorter 30-minute sessions are more effective than a long-dragged hour-long session. In more frequent, shorter sessions, your dog will be far more receptive—and you’ll be able to avoid feeding them too much. If you’re worried about the calories they might be consuming, you can opt to cut treats into smaller pieces or purchase a low-calorie option.
Myth #3 – My Dog Isn’t Motivated by Food
Let’s be real, even we’re motivated by food. As such, if your dog doesn’t appear to be motivated by food during a training session, you may be doing something wrong. Consider whether your dog has already eaten before a training session or if they are feeling stressed or sick. Keep in mind that some dogs are also picky eaters and your pup may be one of them.
Myth #4 – My Dog Won’t Listen to Me
We’ve already established that the best dog training practice is to give your dog something to work for. Remember, there is no dominance hierarchy between humans and their dogs, so you can’t expect your dog to understand what it is that you want them to do without a visible motivator—and much less perform the task at all.
Myth #5 – My Dog Will Only Work for Food and Nothing Else
Common and yet a myth at the same time, dogs completing a task only when food is visible is a learned behavior. When training your dog, removing the food from the equation is the right way to instill repetitive behavior. Keep in mind that when you reward a dog with food, they won’t always know it’s coming. Hence, incorporating secondary motivators such as praise or pats can eventually remove the need to reward your dog with treats every time.