Part 1 of 3: Training Series - Treats vs Praise


In order for dogs to learn, it is important owners keep timing, consistency, and motivation into consideration while training. Several things such as verbal praise, physical touch, toys, and treats can motivate dogs to perform desired behaviors. Let’s focus on the easiest and most commonly used types of motivation, food, and praise, as positive reinforcement. 

Food is the reward of choice for most dogs and owners alike. It is readily available and so many different options are accessible that it is usually possible to find one that will work as motivation. While it is not necessary for these domesticated dogs to scavenge for food, it is still ingrained and instinctive to be attentive when food is in the picture making it an obvious choice. Timing also plays a part in why food is such a great choice, especially in the early stages of training. For a dog to understand exactly what he is getting a treat for, there is only a window of fewer than two seconds to get that reward in. When teaching a command, for example, trainers and owners need something quick and easy to reward a dog with. If an owner had to stop and give his dog a belly rub after every time he sat on command, a training session would not only be lengthy but not as effective. This being said, physical praise like a belly rub is not a practical choice when working with a dog in the beginning stages of obedience training. 

Physical and verbal praise is the standard of getting any dog to perform, whether that be following a command or just being well behaved in general. While food is the motivation of choice for initial training, whether that is for a new puppy or just teaching new behaviors, verbal praise is often what replaces food after the commands are solidified. The most desirable part of praise is it is always feasible, versus food, which takes some planning. Dog personality and breed also play a small part in which type of motivation will work. Some dogs have more of a desire to please their owner and in these cases, praise is an easy motivator. However, some dogs have no desire to work for a verbal or physical praise and need food to pay attention and learn. Both praise and food have an important place in training and extracting desirable behaviors in a dog. 


Alison Ruttencutter
Certified Canine Behavioral Specialist
Certified Professional Canine Trainer
(515) 422-0035




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