Myth about using food as reward while training your dog
Many people think that always using your dog’s favorite treat as a motivational factor to training him/her may not be the right choice because at the end you would like the dog to perform without food.
The Dog Will Become Food dependent To Perform - this is a common myth about food based reward or motivation dog training.
As a trainer you need to master the art of using reward while teaching your dog to do what you want him to do.
What matter most are ‘time’ and ‘method’ of using food as reward in a motivation training session – which means when exactly you should offer your dog the treat and how you should offer it for his good work. Wrong time and wrong way of offering the food reward will never work – instead the dog may really learn to depend on the food to perform. Most common mistakes in reward based dog training is that the trainer unknowingly makes his subject food dependent to perform, instead of using the food as motivational factors for the dog to perform equally good the next time when asked. The side effect of food based reward dog training is that the performance of the dog unknowingly becomes dependent on the reward, and that is due to the wrong rewarding techniques applied by the trainers. Alongside carrying on with the reward based training, counter-conditioning your dog against the side effect is what a perfect motivation dog training technique demands. Here lies the challenge.
If you dog is getting habituated of perfuming only for food/reward, means you are not applying the correct motivation dog training rules.
Food based reward training, being one of the most effective motivational dog training method, demands the trainer to efficiently communicate with the dog he/she training. The communication has to be clear, assertive, prominent, easy-to-understand, and finally but most significantly the communication should happen between a dog and his leader – and not just between a dog and a human, who wants to teach him something. This is the most important rule of motivation dog training that will help a trainer to easily counter-condition his dog against making him food-dependant to perform.
Second important rule – It is not enough to have a good leadership quality in yourself. A strong bondage between a leader (alpha member) and his dog makes the communication smooth, clean and compelling. Most importantly a positive relationship with a dog helps strengthening trustworthiness, which means the dog will not really depend on the food to perform, but will trust his leader and will be optimistic about getting a reward only on desired performance. If your dog is confident about your positive relationship with him and if he trusts you counter-condition the behavioral problems becomes easier.
Third important rule – Set your goal and sub goal. Your goal is to successfully teach your dog by using food or lure as a motivation factor and reinforcer. Remember the goal should NOT be using food as bribe. Don’t confuse between bribery and reward - using food reward during training is not “bribery”, but a reward and praise. The sub goal is however more important; It should be gradually fading the food reward out and replace it by only lavish praises on good performances. The secret of success story lies in how efficiently you make the dog learn that he will be rewarded through praises, not through food when he does what is desired. Alongside fading out the lure it is equally important to simultaneously teach the dog to respond on verbal commands and non-verbal signals.
Extended tips on fading out lure or food reward
Now that your dog is properly trained, it is important to move on with the advanced module wherein you need to teach your dog to respond only on verbal commands and non-verbal signals – without food.
A sudden and total change from lure reward to non-lure verbal command will never serve the purpose, and will confuse the dog. The change should be gradual. Remember, your dog doesn’t know that he has to perform only on verbal command; his focus will be on the food that you have been using as a reward for his good job so far.
Gradually introduce ‘praises’ and take out ‘food’ from the process. Make ‘praises’ a reinforcement component for all good job done. It is a time consuming process and time largely depends on how well you can communicate with your dog and the degree of bonding you have with him.
Here's a great read about employing the motivational factors in dog training!