Research Says Food Rewards Are The Most Effective Way to Train Your Dog

Science says food rewards are the most effective way to train your dog. 

“Using treats during training is the best way to guarantee that your dog will repeat the behavior you want,” the American Kennel Club says.

Erica Feuerbacher, an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at Virginia Tech, did a study that compared food rewards to petting and praise rewards. The results were clear. “They’ll work harder and respond faster for food than for social interaction,” she says.

While dogs are social in nature when it comes to their humans, the study showed that a dog will stay near a person who's praising them for the same amount of time as if the person is ignoring them. 

Relationship-building is at the center of training success. Many trainers use aversive training techniques, but research has shown that using punishment in training risks fear, aggression, and stress in your dog and affects the bond between dog and owner. A study found that dogs trained with aversive techniques looked at their owners less frequently because they were associating their human with bad things thus becoming fearful of them. 

Food rewards, however, have good side effects. If your dog is fearful, this is an especially great tool because it initiates a positive association with the person providing it. 

Zazie Todd, author of the forthcoming “Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy” (Greystone Books, 2020) put it best: "If your boss stopped paying you, you’d probably stop going to work pretty quickly. You need to motivate your dog too.”

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