Training with or without Food

Cookies, Treats and Other Controversial Training Aids
Truth and Philosophy Behind Training with Food
In many circles it is said that if you get two experts together you will end up with three opinions. When it comes to utilizing food as a training tool, that adage comes clear.

Some very experienced trainers will argue that when food is presented, a dog's brain ceases to function because of that very fundamental drive for food. Others point to the success they have using food as a prime motivator and communicator of a job well done. The non-food contingent will argue that a dog trained with food will only be reliable when food is available. Those who utilize food in their training, will express that the food reward can be removed and replaced with other rewards. At which point, the non-food contingent will argue that if you can remove and replace the food reward why use it in the first place?

Perhaps you found yourself nodding in agreement with one or the other position expressed above. With no desire to step on the toes of those who have come before (or will come after), food is much like any other training tool. It can be used well and in ways that will enhance and assist the training and motivational process and it can be used negatively and/or as a crutch. The issue seems to result more from the trainer and techniques than any limitation or weakness of food as a training tool in and of itself.

No doubt, there are some dogs, that food does not serve as a suitable motivator. Either they lose their mind in its presence due to the incredible desire they feel for it, or they have no interest. With those individuals, food wouldn't be a good motivator regardless of a trainer's philosophy.

The limited scope of this article is not a suitable venue for discussing the various techniques that food can offer the best or least benefits. Ideally, a new dog owner, fascinated and filled with desire to learn how to communicate better with their dog would be open to information available in books and from other trainers and dog owners.

With that said, as with using any motivator, one must be familiar with the differences between baiting, bribing and rewarding as well as the contrast between testing and training in order to gain the full benefit of the techniques they use and the motivators they are employing.

Future articles on digitaldog may delve deeper into these topics, in the meantime, write digitaldog directly with your questions at or talk to you favorite trainer.