Having food =/= compliance

It is quite the pet peeve of mine that people have such an issue with using food to train behaviors. I once heard a crazy irritating comment by a person with an out of control boxer/lab type dog. I had Shayne at some event and was using treats to reward desirable behaviors AND working on her reactivity. This guy had the nerve to say to a friend (loud enough for me to hear) that it was a “joke,” that I “had the nerve to use food,” and that “you know the only reason the dog is listening is because there is food. It’s cheating”.

I’m here to tell you that it is the hours and hours of training that got her to respond to my cues and NOT go ballistic at his out of control dog. Food is nothing more than a training tool when we really think about it.

For those people who think it’s only because someone has food that the dog listens, I challenge them to load up with roast beef and go out into the real world with an untrained dog and see if simply having food on their person suddenly makes their dog MAGICALLY comply.

I mean, I hear, “I even bring hotdogs with me and it’s like they don’t exist,” over and over again from new students and I have to explain that food isn’t a magic potion–it’s the TRAINING that happens.

Heck, even with Rio, there are moments where I could have all the food in the world but the fact that he knows lure coursing happens in the field over there makes it incredibly difficult to get his focus. While he won’t pull non-stop to the object, he is certainly not nearly as attentive as he is typically and the fact that I have food in a pouch doesn’t automatically mean that he’ll pay attention. Yes, I have food to reward the good choices he makes but if I hadn’t spent so much time TRAINING him, the fact that I had food would make no difference.

Food is not a replacement for training. It is a tool to facilitate training but it is not a magic wand that instantly makes dogs comply


  1. Yes! This bothers me so much, too. I have a family member that keeps telling me the dogs only listen to me because I have food. Thing is, the training I’ve done with food has worked even when the dog in question knows I have none, and the human still won’t listen…

  2. So true. I experience this in the ring in rally. I know plenty of people think APDT rally is cheating because you can have food on you. Anyone who has seen Risa perform in the APDT ring and the AKC ring can tell you there is no difference in her behavior. I have a pocketful of high-value treats on my person in APDT and I have nothing at all in AKC. She will take off to sniff in either ring. It’s a training issue; not a “I have food” issue.

  3. Well said.

    It always amazes me, those types. It’s always that type of person who also says “my dog won’t obey me” rather than “I haven’t bothered to train my dog”. Food is a tool. A good tool, but only a means to an end. The biggest component of any training is TIME.

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