Operant Conditioning......Training with food
" But if I use food to train.....he'll only work for food ! "
This is a phrase that we sometimes hear when we first propose to a new student that we will use food to motivate a dog. This is a common worry with novice students.
The technique of operant conditioning has been around for quite a long time, but has only recently been adopted for use by dog trainers. Twenty years ago, the majority of dog trainers used correction based training with dogs. This method will eventually work but it is a very unfair way to train. It is not fair to correct a dog when they do not know what you want of them.
Some trainers still use these antiquated methods to train and can be successful by intimidating a dog into submission!
This is certainly NOT the relationship that we want to have with our dog. Food training, if done correctly, builds confidence, makes training a pleasant experience and creates a stronger bond between trainer an dog. It does NOT create a food dependent dog if done right.
Virtually all good trainers are now using these methods. Trainers of marine mammals in theme parks, animals trained for movie and television work, top obedience competitors, and agility dogs now use positive motivation to their advantage.
Although when we begin to teach with food, it starts as a bribe, we will teach you to progress fairly quickly to the point where food will be a reward instead. You will end up with a willing and happy worker and not a dog who obeys because he is AFRAID not to. Think about it....when you go to work, would you rather be rewarded for a job done well? Or would you rather be punished for things you do wrong?