Myth #1: Food is a bribe. This could not be further from the truth. This would be the equivalent of saying your biweekly paycheck is a bribe. Forms of payment are reinforcement. Dogs need a paycheck and in some cases, that comes in the form of a yummy treat.
Myth #2: Using food causes dogs to overeat and become fat. The reality is when training animals you should keep sessions short. They should be no more than 30 minutes. I am a big fan of multiple short 5-to-10 minute sessions per day. Not only will the dog perform better in short sessions, but it will be nearly impossible to overfeed him.
Myth #3. My dog isn’t motivated by food. Nonsense! Dogs are biological creatures who are omnivores. This means that the dog needs food to survive just like they need oxygen and water. Saying a dog isn’t motivated by food to me is like saying, “My dog isn’t motivated to breathe air.” It makes no sense! Most likely, you are probably doing something wrong in your training if your dog isn’t motivated by food. Consider if your dog has just eaten his meal, is too stressed to eat, is sick or does not like bargain-priced treats.
Myth #4: My dog should listen because I am the boss! We already know that there is no dominance hierarchy between dogs and humans. If we are asking our dog to do work for us, we need to reward them for it—just like you get rewarded for your work.
Myth #5: My dog will only work for me with food present. It is a myth because it is not inherent. It is a learned behavior. When training properly, it is important to use a method known as fading in which you essentially try to take the food out of the equation for dogs. You may still reward them with food, but they don’t know when it is coming. When you pair this with secondary motivators, such as praise, affection and markers, then you can easily get them off a requirement of food to learn.
By Sarah Zumhofe