Is Training Without Dog Treats Worthwhile?

Small Pup With TreatI recently had a conversation with a friend when my 1½-year-old niece was being a pain. I directed her to her pacifier and she immediately calmed down. Well, my friend decided to tell me that he never used a pacifier even once with his twins. I immediately felt guilty for allowing my niece to use one. I began thinking of it as a way that I may be manipulating her into the behavior that I preferred because I knew the magical power that the pacifier has over her. After I accepted that I shouldn’t have let it happen, it dawned on me that I did the same thing while training my dog. I used treats as a manipulation, a shortcut maybe, to train him to be the dog that he is today. Some people have determined that treats are the “lazy” pet parent’s way of training their dogs. While others disagree that it’s lazy or irresponsible, there are other people that train their dogs without the assistance of food. Let’s discuss this to see if this may be a way that you want to train yours.

Dogs Do Not Appreciate Aggression

There is a style of training deemed “body language, tone of voice only” that some people prefer over the more common treat based system. This type of training is based on being sterner with your dog as it is learning. During this training, a lot of getting the dog to behave is delegated by the pull of a choke chain. Sure, the dog gets the hang of it because it really doesn’t want to feel the pain of the chain. But are our dogs learning or just learning to be afraid of us? Trust with a dog is a big deal for the dog to even be willing to learn from us. Excessive choking, yelling or smacking may be effective in getting our dogs to listen but ask yourself, is the damage you’re doing to your dog’s confidence and the amount of stress that you’re causing worth it? I’m not trying to make this type of training out to be terrible or violent, it just causes a barrier between you and your dog. If done improperly, your dog thinks that behaving is more important so you won’t discipline it rather than behaving to receive positive reinforcements from a treat based training.

Using Dog Treats to Train
Are Dog Treats Used As Bribes?

While some pet parents can fall into the trap of using treats just as bribes, there is a system that we need to follow when training our dogs. Think of training with treats as a reward based system rather than just throwing a bone when our dogs react to our commands. When we are initially training our dogs for a new behavior, treats are to be expected. That’s how we motivate them into learning. Once the dog exhibits that that it has a firm grasp on the new training that you are introducing, the treats shouldn’t be used quite as much. Your dog won’t need or expect treats once the new behavior becomes a regular part of its life.

Some people misinterpret training a dog with treats as a way of bribery. They believe that the dog is behaving because it is guaranteed a reward rather than because it respects us. The truth to that is, yes, the dog is appreciative of getting something out of behaving but it is also getting something more out of the kind toned words that we use as we dish out the treats. A dog that is treated with kindness and compassion will be your best friend and that is a big deal to them. They respect someone that shows them that they are loved even though sometimes you do have to be stern with them. That’s the role that you have to play as the Alpha Male or your dog will decide that it can run all over you.

Motivate Your Dog For Good Results

The simplest way to train a dog is by offering a way to motivate it. We’ve covered in the past how food to a dog is like money to people. Is there anything more motivating to us? Not really, that’s why we get out of our comfortable beds in the morning to go to work. So, your dog is absolutely willing to reason with you if that means that it will get a snack that it likes (especially these homemade snacks). That’s not saying that your dog is not able to learn without having treats to depend on but it will feel way more comfortable in participating in learning if it is looking as a treat for a reward rather than a tug on a chain as a motivation. If we think of our dogs as companions that will make mistakes rather than animals that are afraid of misbehaving around us, we can build a bond that is beneficial both to us and our pets.