Dog Training Methods: Should you Use Foods & Treats?


You finally decided to train your dog, but after trying multiple training methods, you and your dog cannot seem to get the hang of it. 

What is the problem, and what can you do to fix it? If you are like most dog owners, you will soon realize not all training programs are the same, and not all dogs respond the same to different training techniques. 

You can try different techniques, but sometimes it may be as simple as positive reinforcement in the form of dog treats. 

Could using dog treats be that simple? And in the end, is this even a good idea?

Let us learn about training your dog using food and treats and why it might be a technique you should consider for your dog. 

Reasons Why You Need to Train Your Dog

Before we begin, let us learn why it is always a good idea to train your dog. Dog training is something that, as a dog owner, you will eventually come up against sooner or later unless you have a previously trained dog, and then you should count yourself lucky. 

The number one reason why you need to train your dog is that it will give your dog important socialization skills. Your dog will thank you for giving them some direction and will make it easier for you to take your dog to public places. 

A friend of mine was going on a holiday and put up her dog in a daycare in Nashville; they called her back within 3 hours to come and get her dog because he wreaked absolute havoc in their center.

Granted, the daycare could have been more professional, but the point is that a badly trained dog does not get along with others. 

Other reasons, why you should train your dog include:

  • Training your dog will give you command over a language that they can understand. It will make it easier for both of you to communicate. 
  • Once your dog is trained, you will not have to worry about your dog running out into the street or getting into an altercation with another dog. 
  • Training your dog gives them important mental stimulation that is important for their well-being. 

Training should start for your dog when they are a puppy rather than waiting until they receive their full vaccinations. If puppies are socialized early, it will make it easier to train them later. 

Why Positive Reinforcement Works? 

Positive reinforcement is rooted in science. It is a method that has been used and studied by psychologists, most notably B.F. Skinner was the father of operant conditioning. 

It is no secret that reinforcing good behavior with positive things will create a situation where your dog will want to keep trying to please you. It is important to understand the difference between bribing and luring your dog with a dog treat. 

In luring, you are showing your dog the treat as an indication that if they follow your command, they will be rewarded. However, you want to make sure your dog does not become dependent on the treat, so you will need to make sure you use different tactics. 

Tips to Keep in Mind When Using Food to Train a Dog 

 Before you start using dog treats to train your dog, it is important to remember a few tips:

  • Use healthy and small treats, so you do not create a weight problem
  • Reward your dog when they are calm rather than excited and hyperactive
  • Reward stepwise and do not wait until they perform the entire command 
  • Do bribe your dog by using the ‘fade the lure’ method
  • Use a variety of treats to keep your dog interested 

Positive Reinforcement Vs. Alpha Dog 

Sometimes when you are using positive reinforcements, you might question whether you should try the positive reinforcement method or the Alpha dog technique. 

The Alpha dog techniques rely on the theory that dogs are pack animals. They rely on the head of the pack known as the alpha to stay in line and listen to commands. It is also known as dominance training, and the alpha, in this case, is you, the dog owner. 

You can use a blend of both training methods, but they do differ in theory and practice. So which one is better? Well, it’s not that simple. 

There are pros and cons for both: 

Pros of Positive Reinforcement or using Dog Treats 

  • Anyone can train the dog and reinforce good behaviors, while in alpha, there is usually one individual that the dog will consider as the ‘alpha.’
  • As other family members can train the dog, there is a bond that forms with everyone
  • There is no stern voice that needs to be used for positive reinforcement
  • There is no punishment that is required. 

Pros of Alpha Training

  • The dog owner is always put first before the dog
  • Your dog will know who is in charge
  • Your dog will listen and focus on you when in public spaces
  • You will have no doubt in your mind about your dog attacking other animals or not listening to you when you take your dog to the dog park 

The best training method uses both of these methods and blends important training techniques from both. You are the best judge of your dog and, with time, will be able to determine which technique they are responding to better

Will I Always Need to Use Treats for Training?

Well, over a period of time, you can start to withdraw the treats, but you should not do that in the beginning. In the beginning, you need to use the treats.

You will start to replace them with real-life rewards. And you should eventually start to phase out the treats as your training progresses. Many give up on positive reinforcement training because they think they have to use treats forever, and that is not the case. You can actually use real-life rewards to phase out the dog treats. Real-life rewards can be attention, love, touch, and even the occasional snuggling on the sofa. Dogs love snuggling on the sofa!

Dog Treats Can Make Dog Training Fun 

Give it a try, and show some love to your pup today. Positive reinforcements work and can bring about a dramatic change in your training progress if other methods are not working. 

You can learn to phase out dog treats so that you are not dependent upon them. Soon your dog and you will be able to understand one another better. You will learn to speak their language, and they will learn what not to do. 

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