Food rewards anyone?
We do not train using food. Our 30+ years of experience shows us that it is not effective. Using food rewards can be a wonderful way to train – at first. You see immediate results and think “Eureka!”. But there is nothing sadder than a dog who can’t focus on anything other than your hand in hopes that there is a piece of food in it. It also defies logic. If every time you did something wrong you got handed a piece of chocolate, wouldn’t your incentive be to do that wrong thing over and over to get chocolate all day? And as soon as you quit giving chocolate, wouldn’t you go back to the incorrect behavior? Food can also be viewed as a reward. Hmmm. Every time I get up on the furniture, they say the word DOWN and hand me a milk bone. Awesome. I am going to get up on that furniture all day. The smart dog will also inevitably figure out when you have food and when you do not.
There are no absolutes in the world. If you come to one of our classes and participate in Game Night, you will see how we do incorporate food into training. Just like humans bonding over a good meal, food can be used to help you and your dog bond. But it must be used in the spirit of fun. Learning tricks falls under that umbrella, too. You might also catch us using food to develop a positive association in severe cases of phobia or aggression.
We believe that a dog should do what you ask because he loves and respects you. Example? My standard poodle Samuel was off lead yesterday. A squirrel up in the tree went out on a branch and fell to the ground. Right in front of Samuel. Samuel did what retrievers do. He picked up the squirrel in his mouth. The squirrel, sadly, was dead. I told Samuel to Leave It. He dropped it out of his mouth. I told him Let’s Go. He came right to me. And in spite of the blood dripping from his mouth, I hugged and loved him. No milk bone necessary. He did what I said because I am the leader and he respects me. Period.
Food for thought, right?