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Using Treats in Training


by Robin MacFarlane



"Can I use food (treats) with my E-collar training?"

Yes, yes and yes. That is my answer to the question of using food in training. We have to remember that when we first start out teaching our dogs something, they have NO idea what it is that we are asking of them. They don't comprehend our words and can't read our minds as to what it is we want. It is our job to show them what we desire.

One of the easiest ways for the average person to teach a dog the meaning of a verbal cue is through lure and reward training.

The idea behind Lure and Reward is very simple. The animal's body follows where the nose goes. If you think of a Hound, this picture is pretty vivid. The scent of something interesting leads that hounds body through all sorts of changes, walking along a path, then crawling under a low fence line, then stretching on hind legs to see what is up the tree.

You can use your dog's sense of smell and desire for something yummy to teach the behavior of simple changes of body position, like Sit, Stand and Down (LINK: see note below) fairly quickly and once the dog catches on to the cues, you can marry that understanding to the prompt from the e-collar, so you can then later build desired reliability.

The key to using food in your training is learning to use it properly. Sounds familiar huh? Learning to use any of our dog training tools properly is pretty much the key to success!

Properly means you ONLY use it as a lure for a few repetitions. As soon as the dog catches onto the idea of following your hand, you keep the food elsewhere. A place easily accessible, like a pocket or bait bag and reward the dog AFTER they have successfully followed your hand to the desired position. Now you have developed a hand signal that can be used either as a stand-alone cue or in conjunction with your verbal commands.

Eventually you can wean your dog off of any hands signals also, so that verbal commands will stand alone in getting your dog to respond. The exception to this, are dogs that are hearing impaired. For those dogs we'll continue to use hand signals and add tactile cues, so we can communicate clearly throughout their lifetime.

Early in the training process begin to use the treat rewards intermittently. This is what creates a dog that responds eagerly, but doesn't become dependent on a bribe. Think of yourself as a slot machine. You pay out occasionally, sometimes a little payout, once in a while a big payout. A big payout in terms of treats means a few tidbits as opposed to one, or something more special like a nibble of chicken rather than a piece of kibble. Don't fill your dog with loads of calories just because you had one training session. I've witnessed some trainer's classes where dogs are actually vomiting by the end of a class because they are stuffed so full. That is a misuse of food rewards and a dog that is never going to work unless he's bribed to do so.

Use of treats and food makes early shaping of behavior very quick and easy. I encourage it. If using treats really goes against your mindset then use a toy instead. Even better, use food, toys and play intermittently as your rewards and you never leave yourself without an option to show your dog he has performed admirably.

As you progress you do not need to reward the dog for every single correct response, but I suspect we all like getting a paycheck eventually for the work we do. For your dog, that can mean continued use of an occasional treat, or a toss or tug with a toy, a belly rub and a kind word, or even permission to actually chase the squirrel!

Keep training!


-- Robin



Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.



Robin's Obedience DVD

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    FREE Dog Training Videos

  • Here's Why You Should Train Your Dog
  • Does Your Dog Know her Place?
  • Teaching a Recall? Start Slow and Make the Dog Successful
  • Teaching the Down Command
  • House Manners
  • "Pay Me!"
  • How to Strengthen Your Dog's Understanding of "Stay"
  • How Long Does My Dog have to Wear the E-Collar?
  • Consistency Without an E-collar
  • Skills Every Puppy Should Learn
  • Dogs and Doorbells -- Oh My!
  • Stop Your Dog from Bolting to the Door!
  • Use Food Lures to Shape Your Puppies Introduction to Sit, Stand and Down
  • Puppy Training 101: Play Biting Problem
  • Teaching Your Puppy to "Kennel Up"
  • Dog Tricks: How to Teach Your Dog to Walk Backwards
  • Want a Standing Ovation? Teach Your Dog to "Take A Bow!"
  • Want Your Dog to Come to You? Try Moving Away from Him.
  • "Catch me if you can!"
  • Tired of Fido Stealing Your Snacks?
  • E-Collar, Leash, Treats, Toy, and the Dog. How to Manage it All!
  • Dog Tricks: Teaching Your Dog to Dance
  • Before You Expect a Dog to Stay on a Place, Teach Him to get on Willingly.
  • Adding E-Collar Prompting to your Place Command
  • Impulse Control Games are a Time Well Spent Playing with your Dog!
  • Juggling All Your Training Equipment?


  • How to Train Your Dog

  • FREE Dog Training Videos
  • Proper Fit of E-Collar
  • Is Your Dog Collar Wise?
  • "How long does my dog have to wear the collar?"
  • Pressure Necrosis
  • Using Treats in Training
  • Can I Use an E-Collar on My Small Dog?
  • I Need a Shock Collar!
  • Dog Training: Keeping it Real: Training Your Dog Should be Easy
  • Why Would I Want to Use an E-Collar on My Dog?
  • A Tired Dog is a Good Dog
  • Three Things You Must Know to Have a Reliably Trained Dog
  • Are Remote Collars Punishment, Negative Reinforcement, or Motivators?
  • The Best Way to Rescue a Dog
  • It is More than Just Pushing a Button: Part One
  • What About the Leash?
  • Tennis Ball, Tug or Cookie? What do Rewards Have to do with Good Training?
  • The More Important Tool: Part 4 of "It Is More Than Just Pushing a Button."
  • Do You Need Impeccable Timing in Order to Use a Remote Collar?
  • What Does Your Dog's Future Look Like?
  • 6 Essential Things to Teach to Have a Good Dog
  • The Top 3 Reasons Your Remote Collar Doesn't Seem to be Working
  • How Long Does It Take to Train My Dog?
  • Put a Plan Into Motion for Dealing With Your Dog's Behavior Problems!
  • Why are You Grateful for Your Dog?
  • Are You Struggling to Get Your Dog to Stay? Try This.
  • There are Only 3 Levels on a Remote Training Collar?
  • The One Thing You Must Know if You Want to Train with an E-Collar
  • How to Help Your Dog Understand What You Want
  • Photos: One Great Reason to Teach a Place Command to Your Dog
  • New Puppy Tips
  • Sit? or Sit! -- The Case for Intonation When Speaking to Your Dog
  • Number of Commands
  • So Your Dog Knows Sit. Now What?
  • 20 Reasons to Teach a Place Command
  • E-Collar Use: Training vs. Enforcing
  • Know How to Train a Dog, Know How to Use a Remote Collar?
  • 5 Ways to Enhance Feeding Time
  • "But my dog doesn't like it."
  • Outwit Your Dogs if You Want Better Behavior
  • Weaning Off E-Stim: Tap, Tell or Help
  • Proofing: How to Help Your Dog Really "Get It."
  • Should Your Dog Sleep on the Bed With You?
  • Human Body Language
  • Good Health: The Missing Link for a Happy and Well-Adjusted Dog?
  • Are You the Center of Your Dog's World?
  • E-Collar Training: Be Sure to Do This Before You Go Off Leash
  • What Behavior are You Rewarding the Most?
  • The Importance of Routine Nail Trims for Your Dog
  • When is the Right Time to Start Training My Dog?
  • Is it Important that a Dog Learn to Heel?
  • 3 Things to do Right Now to Avoid Separation Issues with Your Dog
  • Training Your Dog to Stop Barking
  • How to Use a No Bark Collar

  • Pull-Quote= The key to using food in your training is to learn to use it properly.



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