Is It Effective to Use Food When Train A Dog?

Have you ever trained your dogs to do some tricks? It is exciting to watch our furry friend play with us. But training our dogs to do tricks such as rolling on the floor, shaking hands (or paws), or even a simple trick like sitting, can be a little bit… well, tricky. Dog is already a smart animal that can learn to do tricks easily. However, as a good dog owner, we also have to learn and find the best way to teach our dogs so they could still enjoy the training process.

One of the most popular ways to do it is by giving our dogs some food or treats as a reward when we are training them. Giving food as a reward is believed as a good motivation for dogs to shape new behaviors. Here’s an article for you to understand it better. 

Is it effective to use food when train a dog?

The power of food rewards for the dog’s brain.

Food is great, we all agree on that. Dogs feel the same, too. Not only to encourage and motivate the dogs to learn, but food reward is also influenced how their brains work. Food can help them to overcome their fear and anxiety because it has the ability to raise the level of dopamine. Dopamine has a major role to regulate movement and positive emotional response, and motivate them to seek or move towards the food reward. For short, it makes your dogs feel happy and motivated! Food reward can enhance your dogs’ ability to ‘turn on’ their hunting behavior and at the same time, ‘turn off’ their fears. Thus, it allows them to move into a calmer state during the training. That is why food reward is a valuable method to train dogs, especially for those who have aggressive or fearful dogs.

Rules about the food

However, there are some rules about the food reward that we need to follow. The food that we use as a reward should not be in a big portion because over-feeding is bad for our pet’s health. Pea-sized or about your thumb nail-sized treat is enough to motivate your dogs. Overfeeding can lead your dogs into getting fat, so keep your eye with your dog’s daily food intake. You can increase his intake if they are active throughout the day because they definitely using up their energy a lot, and decrease the portion if they less active than usual. 

The type of food or treats should also be something that quick and easy to eat, healthy, and surely, tasty! You can also use a different kind of food to avoid boredom. Try to switch the reward with a different type of your dog’s favorite foods a few times during the training session. It will motivate them better because they will never know what they would from you as their reward. 

‘Casino slot’ addiction

Have you ever played a casino slot? It is addictive, right? It makes you want to keep doing that because you thought you will win this thing in the next round. It makes us curious and motivates us to try over and over again. This concept can be applied to your dogs’ training. Instead of giving your dog food or treat every time, you can also give an alternate reward such as praise sometimes. This will make your dogs continue to respond for your cue and do the tricks over and over again because they will never know when the food or treat is coming, just like how we play casino slot. 

Lure and reward

One of the popular forms of training is lure and reward. For example, when you want to teach your dog to lie down, you can put the treat in front of his noses, and slowly bringing the treat down to the ground, lure you dogs and let he follows the treat He eventually end up by lying down, and then you give him the treat as a reward. The idea of lure and reward is to present the food first to encourage the dogs or to lure them to do something. They will get the reward after they successfully perform the tricks. Lure and reward!

So, is it effective?

The answer is, yes and no. Using food when train our dogs can be a valuable method because food can stimulate the dogs to perform the tasks. It makes your dogs stay in the calmer state during the training, but still motivate them enough to keep being active and listen for your cue or command. However, if you don’t do it correctly, or just simply giving food whenever your dogs perform something without proper method or at the exact right time, your dogs will not understand the training and just keep coming back for food only. The main point is how to make your dogs enjoy learning so they can understand your cue better.

Maybe the idea of giving food as a reward to motivate your dogs to do stuff conflicts you. Will it be nicer if they do it because of their love and loyalty to us? Well, don’t worry! The idea of food reward is to appreciate your dogs. You also feel appreciated if someone gives you presents (or let say, pay you) for your hard work before, right? The main thing is, we should know and understand our dogs, and find the best way to train them so they can enjoy the process. The food reward method has to be done correctly and positively with the right amount of food, so we don’t overfeed our dogs. 

In addition, the tasks that you can teach to your dogs are vary from telling them to Sit, Down, Stand, Stay, Wait, etc. To learn more, you can read the article about dog training here. Good luck and don’t forget to have fun!