FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
DO I HAVE TO USE FOOD TO TRAIN MY DOG?
You don't have to use any particular tool to train your dog. Professionals like food because it is one of the most powerful motivators in animal training. The reality is that you get more strongly conditioned behavior if you do not limit yourself to praise alone.
Another advantage of food is that you can use it to target the dog into position. Food therefore has two roles: as target (“lure”) and as reward. Training with positive reinforcement allows the dog to relax and learn, and strengthens the bond between you and the dog.
Over time, you can expect "more for your money," that is, more behaviors for fewer treats. You will also become skillful at incorporating other rewards into training.
AREN’T I ACTUALLY BRIBING MY DOG WHEN I LURE HIM INTO POSITION WITH A TREAT?
You can't bribe a dog for doing something he doesn't even have in his repertoire yet! Put yourself in his place. Imagine that someone said "palana." What would you do? Nothing, because you don't understand what that person wants you to do, let alone why you should do it.
Physically placing your dog into position slows down learning and has negative side effects. Using a target allows you to elegantly obtain the correct behavior.
WILL I ALWAYS HAVE TO USE FOOD TO REWARD MY DOG?
Certainly not as frequently as for a newer behavior, but yes, maintenance of established behavior with (concealed) intermittent rewards is a must. There is no free lunch in behavior.
Think of it this way: you have to feed your dog anyway. You can give it all to him for free in a bowl or you can reserve part of his daily caloric intake and make him earn it!
Also, don’t forget that there are other rewards besides food: everyday things such as play, sniffing, door opening, car rides and access to other dogs can also be used to reward established behavior.
ISN’T CRATE TRAINING CRUEL?
A crate is a safe, comfortable place that most dogs voluntarily use when the door is left open. How might you treat a human toddler when unsupervised? Would you consider it “cruel” to leave her in a crib and “kind” to let her wander around? Crating also prompts dogs to hold their bladder and bowels, facilitating housetraining.
I HAVE HEARD THAT PLAYING TUG CAUSES AGGRESSION. IS THIS TRUE?
The only study ever done found no correlation between dogs that play tug and aggression. If you teach your dog to “take” and "drop" on cue and cancel the game if he breaks one of these rules, there is no reason to deprive your dog of this fun and efficient energy burner. Tired dogs are well-behaved dogs.
I HEARD THAT I SHOULD PUT MY HAND IN MY DOG’S FOOD BOWL WHILE THEY’RE EATING SO THEY KNOW I’M THE BOSS. IS THIS TRUE?
Messing around with your dog and taking food away while they're eating can cause them to ‘guard’ their food from people. The best way to train your dog to like people around while they're eating is to drop extra high value goodies (wet food!) while they're eating. You can also pick up their bowl and add something super yummy like bits of chicken and then give it back.
This teaches them that someone taking their food away means something fantastic is about to happen! If your dog is already guarding their bowl, do not attempt to approach them at mealtimes and make an appointment with a credentialed, force-free trainer in your area.
Children should never ever be permitted to mess around with dogs at mealtimes.
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