Training with Food or Treats


By Josiah Neuman CMT, CDT
In Dogs We Trust, LLC. / Wir Vertrauen


I will start by telling you that I for one was against food or treat training in the beginning. As a trainer, I feel it’s important to take a dynamic approach when communicating with dogs and to develop a training plan that not only gets us from point A to B, but builds the bond between dog and handler. There is no question in my mind that training with food works. It is safe and forgiving of judgment and timing errors for the novice handler.

The three most widespread arguments against employing food as a motivator in training are:

1. The dog will only work when treats are present.
2. Distraction proofing with treats is ineffective.
3. It cheapens the bond between dog and handler.

The myths that food trained dogs always need to see food up front can occur with poorly executed food training.
Our training program takes the dog through four phases of training where the dog learns to perform with no treats or food regardless of the circumstances.

The second reservation to food training is that is ineffective if the dog is distracted with a competing motivator – something the dog wants more than the food/treat. I am of the opinion that food is a valuable tool to teach the dog various commands. Food alone will not establish control, enforcing commands is a later phase of training and necessary in order to proof and generalize a behavior. Therefore, we are able to train and establish control at all times, regardless of the distraction.

The last and more popular problem people have with food training is the feeling that the dog “should” perform without it. Once food is used to train the dog has been corrupted, the bond between person and dog dirtied. I feel the opposite; the dog has to eat anyway. No one will ever convince the dog that food is a bad thing or that he/she shouldn’t like it. The choices are to either give it for free, or use it as a tool to teach the dog which we feel is constructive training.

Dog training with food or treats

Simply put, we teach the dog that they have full access to food and treats – we are not in competition for the food nor their attention. The dog learns that they control their access to the food. Many handlers find that they become more powerful than what could have been achieved through heavy handed correction or coercive handling.

If you would like more information about the types of training offered click here!