Food as Primary Reinforcer

As recently as 10 to 15 years ago, most dog training was done with compulsion.  These days, however, we use more positive methods as they have been found to be more successful and less traumatic for the dogs and puppies.  What we try to do is to consistently set clear limits for  behaviour and effectively communicate the rules by  immediately rewarding correct behaviours and  preventing access to or immediately removing the  rewards for undesirable behaviours before  they are reinforced. It is this consistency and clarity that will create a more confident puppy who knows his place, trusts you, and looks to you for all his needs.  Bad behaviour only happens because it has, in some way been reinforced, either inadvertently by you or members of your family, or by something in your pup’s environment.

Reinforcers (or rewards) can be anything the dog likes or wants.  In the beginning we use food to reward because it is a primary resource that the dog depends on for its survival.  It is also easy to manipulate and carry around with you – always on hand to reward anything the pup is doing that you like.  Puppies are learning ALL THE TIME – not just during our 10 or 15 minute formal training sessions and being able to reward good behaviour whenever it happens is a huge advantage when teaching your pup acceptable vs unacceptable behaviour.

If you follow our protocol of feeding at least one meal of the day out of your pocket and NOT in the bowl, you will always have your food rewards on hand and since our rate of reinforcement initially is extremely high, there is no danger of our pup gaining weight.


The other advantage of training with food is that it is a very valuable resource that you control.  Training with food strengthens the bond you have with your pup and improves the relationship.  As soon as pup has learnt the correct behaviour and has also learnt the value of games and interactive play with you, the food rewards can be replaced with life rewards such as access to other dogs, games with you and favoured toys and also praise and petting.


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