Food Training – Good, Bad, or Bribery?

There are two schools of dog obedience training – aversive dog training (traditional methods) and reward dog training.

In reward dog training, food is sometimes used as a motivator for work and success. However, some people view the use of food rewards as dog bribery.

Is food training bribery?

More importantly, is food training effective? Is it a good way to stop bad dog behaviors, and to build a strong bond with our dog?

Is Using Food Dog Bribery?

The Free Dictionary defines bribery as “the practice of offering something (usually money) in order to gain an illicit advantage”. This is in contrast to reward which is defined as “something given in return for a service”.

Reward is the broader definition, and bribery is perhaps a specialized instance of reward, where the “service” returned is illegal or illicit. Based on these definitions, it seems that bribery is not quite the appropriate term to use for food motivated dog training. Last time I checked, Sit, Down, or even Play Dead are not against the law. Even the Hump command is strictly legal.

In the Merriam-Webster Dictionary bribe is defined as “something that serves to induce or influence”. This is a more general definition, that comes much closer to the meaning of reward. However, I would argue that all of dog training is about applying a stimulus in order to induce or influence the dog to stop bad behaviors, and repeat good behaviors.

Therefore, all dog training would be classified as bribery under this more broad description.

Whichever definition we choose to use, it is clear that bribery has many negative connotations, whereas reward is more neutral or positive.

Therefore, is using food in dog training something negative?

There are three main reasons why some dog owners may consider food training to be bribery -

Food Dog Training Myth 1

The dog is doing it for the food and not for me.

Popular movies and television shows such as Lassie, portray good dogs as living only to please and protect us, their masters. Good dogs know that there is little else to life aside from pleasing humans, and doing exactly what we tell them to do. The only exceptions, are those instances whereby they cleverly thwart the villains on their own, in anticipation of their master’s needs.

Not too surprisingly, real-world dogs are very different from their media counterparts.

In the real world, dogs are not slaves. They have their own needs, that are often different from our own. They like rolling in skunk, chewing on our designer shoes, and eating their own poop.

Note though that just because a dog has needs, does not mean that he has no loyalty toward us. Depending on breed, many dogs are very loyal to their pack or family. They will often protect family members with their lives, and do all that they can to ensure pack success.

Dogs, however, think and communicate differently than we do. Protecting the family and ensuring pack success, may not always mean the same things to them, as it does to us.

Loyalty is about a strong attachment or bond, and NOT about blindly following commands without thinking for ourselves.

Working for food is NOT some sort of canine betrayal.

It is simply an efficient way to facilitate dog training, and to build a strong relationship. Different dogs have different temperaments, so to train each of them effectively, we must identify which rewards work best. Food rewards work for some dogs, while others may prefer toys, freedom to explore, dog play, praise, or visiting with dog friends.

Reward Dog Training


Dogs that are highly motivated by praise, and human interaction, are probably closest to the Lassie ideal. Herding dogs fit well into this category because they have been bred to work closely with us. Some example herding dogs include Collies (Lassie), Border Collies, and Shetland Sheepdogs.

These dogs may be people motivated, but they also have personal goals and needs. For example, herding dogs are bred to work, and they need to engage in interesting joint activity with their human owners.

Well-trained herding dogs can achieve much together with their human counterparts. However, if left alone at home, unchallenged, and untrained, these same dogs will quickly become bored and frustrated. They will escape, chew up our belongings, or redesign our house and yard.

In other words, both human motivated dogs, and food motivated dogs are working for a reward or bribe. In one case the bribe is human attention and affection, in the other the bribe is food.

This has nothing to do with long-term love, or long-term loyalty; just shorter term motivators for a job well done.

Food Dog Training Myth 2

The dog becomes unreliable and over-dependent on food rewards.

Ok, so now we know that real-world dogs operate based on their own needs, and are not unthinking, human slaves. The question then becomes:

Is it better to only motivate our dog through non-food rewards?

Obviously we do not want to be fumbling with food when our dog is running into traffic, or preparing to jump into a filthy lake.

A dog that is trained purely based on human interaction and praise, but not on food, will presumably be more reliable. We always have the ability to give praise and affection, whereas we may not always have food with us. In a perfect world, it will be much easier on us if our dogs were highly people-motivated. However, most dogs are less motivated by praise, and a lot more motivated by food.

In these cases, food will greatly enhance and expedite the dog learning process.

Once our dog has learned a particular command through repetition, we can slowly phase out the food rewards and only treat him intermittently.

Some trainers claim that as soon as we reduce the amount of food rewards, a dog will respond more slowly to commands, or just ignore them altogether.

This is NOT true.

Scientific studies on animal behavior and dog behavior show that dogs will continue to respond, even when we cut back to intermittent rewards. This was explained in detail by Ferster and Skinner in their book Schedules of Reinforcement. However, we should slowly phase out food rewards, only after our dog has properly learned the command or behavior. Remember to use a variable schedule of rewards, rather than a fixed schedule.

Aversive Dog Training

Instead of using rewards (food or otherwise) to motivate our dog to work, we can also use an aversive stimulus.

With reward dog training we give our dog a reward when he does something right, and take away a reward when he does something wrong. With aversive dog training we apply something unpleasant/aversive when our dog does something wrong, and stop the aversive stimulus as soon as he does something right.

There are a variety of aversive methods, but the most common are leash corrections and muzzle slaps. A leash correction requires a collar and leash, while the muzzle slap can be executed with our own hands.

The advantage of these methods is that they can be applied on our dog wherever we are, without having to carry around food or other rewards. Aversive methods are frequently based on pain and fear, which not surprisingly, turn out to be strong short-term motivators. As a result, our dog may initially become more reliable at following commands. However, responsiveness to commands usually degrades over time, as our dog gets habituated to the pain.

Aversive methods are very risky, and may end up damaging our dog physically and mentally, as well as cause dog behavior issues such as aggression. These techniques may also weaken the relationship with our dog, and erode his trust in us.

As a result, most aversive techniques should only be used as a last resort, and only under the direction of a professional trainer.

It is always strange to me that opponents of reward training would talk endlessly about how giving food to dogs is inappropriate, but applying pain or some other negative stimulus is somehow considered to be the ‘right‘ thing to do.

In fact, reward training is very effective, and carries a lot less risk than aversive training.

Food Dog Training Myth 3

The dog becomes obese and unhealthy.

Finally, some people worry that their dogs may become obese or unhealthy if they keep receiving “food bribes” throughout the day.

This is easily managed by using our dog’s daily food rations as his work reward, rather than presenting it to him in a silver bowl. In this way, he will not be eating more than he did before. If there is food left over, we can stuff it in interactive food toys and let him work for that as well.

In the wild, wolves and wild dogs spend most of their time working for food. A domestic dog that also has to work for his food, will be exercising his body and mind in a positive way, and will be less likely to get into mischief.

If I use dog treats during training, then I make sure to reduce my dog’s kibble intake accordingly. I only use healthy dog treats that do not contain fillers and unnecessary additives. Do not give a dog too many treats, and always feed him a balanced meal.

To Bribe or Not to Bribe?

Food is a strong motivator for shaping dog behavior, and it makes sense to use all the tools at our disposal. There are truly no real downsides to using food, and very many upsides.

We must feed our dog anyway, on a daily basis, so just make him work for the food rather than giving it to him for free.

Should food be used in dog training? Absolutely.

Why?

Food makes learning easier, quicker, and a lot more fun. Food will also help to create a stronger bond with our dog, that is based on mutual trust and respect.

Is using food bribery?

If by bribery we mean something bad or wrong, then absolutely not. If by bribery, we mean “reward”, then we should just use the word reward. :D

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Comments

  1. Alex says

    Well, since most videos on YouTube are copyrighted material not belonging to the posters (commercials, music videos, tv shows) alot of them wouldn’t care. But for those who actually make their own videos as art and post them, they would mind… Alot. I’m an ameture artist and I know I’d never want someone to claim my piece of art without express permission and acknowledgement that it was me who made it, not the poster. But since all the videos on youtube that I have are raw unedited stock, I really don’t care who posts them, or where.

  2. shibashake says

    Hey Alex,
    Thanks for your answer.

    “I’d just like to see this site you’re talking about that I’d ’strongly disagree with’”
    Heh – no no, I am not associated with any disagreeble sites. I just wrote an article on youTube videos and copyright. Was having a discussion with some people about it, and we disagreed on some key points so I was just interested in other people’s opinions in terms of usage of their youTube videos. :)

  3. Alex says

    Since he’s calmed down they’ve been getting along alot more. He’ll still try and get rough with her sometimes and she doesn’t like that. We control the situation, though, so they’ve been learning to co-exist.
    Cat’s tail twitching can mean a number of things, in the video here I just think it’s a movement, like when you bob your leg. I know that when my cat whaps her tail around it means she’s agitated, and sometimes when she’s sitting and she wags it fast back and forth, most of the time she’s very intent on something, like she’s looking outside and sees all the things and smells things and hears animals. Just like dogs, tail-wagging doesn’t always mean one thing.
    Yep. Usually I’ll just have him sit there for 30 seconds or so with the food by his nose and make him look me in the eyes. (makes the connection between me and the giving of food) but tricks are sometimes done just for fun. :D

    I wouldn’t really mind, although I’d like to see where my videos are going. It’s not an artwork or anything, and I wouldn’t want people to claim my video, but whatever you want to embed I don’t mind. I’d just like to see this site you’re talking about that I’d ‘strongly disagree with’, and where my video is posted in it. :)

  4. shibashake says

    Hey Alex, Great videos! Thanks for sharing.

    I liked both of them. The cat one is very dear. It is amazing that they stay so close to each other. It was interesting that the cat’s tail was twitching the whole time :) I am not really sure what that means.

    Lupin is such a clever dog. I liked it that he did all those commands for you before dinner. I think working for their food is a good thing.

    Btw- I have an off-topic question related to youTube – do you expect someone to ask you for permission before they use your videos? or would you be ok if whomever embeds it in their site without asking for permission? What if the site contains content that you strongly disagree with?

  5. Alex says

    I can get a million videos like that. All I have to do is have a camera. Here are a few more of him.
    The people in my developement are pretty nice. It’s mostly older couples that have retired, and richer people. Most of the kids are snobby brats.
    Here is one of him and his ex-nemesis Rhea the cat.(They just recently started to get along, Lupin used to chase her and she’d tease him and then run away. Now he’ll actually get close to her without invading her space.. most of the time.) I’m trying to teach the cat to walk on a leash so she can go on our morning walks. So far I’ve only gotten the harness to fit right (it’s a dog harness). She’s an indoor cat so going outside is really new to her.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XCCLbOsyvg
    And here is one of me feeding Lupin his evening meal. It’s hard to see him most of the time because it’s black dog on black.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKDwxJADgzY

  6. shibashake says

    Hahaha – I really like the one with your finger in his mouth.

    Heh – looks like a really nice neighborhood. Would have liked to see more of Lupin tho :)

  7. shibashake says

    Hey Alex,

    Cool video. Lupin is a good looking fella! Give me a link to his pictures if you have some up.

    Re Bath – “The problem with what you might do (I’m assuming you’d put your dog in isolation, if not, tell me) ”

    Actually that is not what I would do because you are correct that isolation would actually be a reward in this case. Also, in this case, if the dog were to show aggression, it will be most likely out of fear. My Shiba Inu used to get extremely fearful when I put him in the shower stall. I can understand – because it is small, kindda dark, wet, and he has nowhere to run if anything happened. He never got aggressive – but would stand there and shake.

    Nowadays I bathe him in the backyard – usually by playing a water hose game with him. He generally doesn’t like to get wet, but he is very happy to get wet for a chasing game :)

    I think a problem with using corrections in these situations of fear is that it makes the experience even more negative for the dog. Just as you say in the collar case – you would not do corrections.

    Re Cesar’s methods – “3. Maybe you weren’t doing it right”

    Oh I am sure I wasn’t doing it right. But there was only one person who ever did it “right” with my Shiba Inu and he is a trainer with 30+ years of experience, extremely confident, and had no fear whatsoever of dogs. He works in a city shelter so my Shiba Inu’s antics were probably nothing to him – lol. He only did leash corrections and did not approve of alpha rolls. I did about 2-3 weeks of private lessons with him and still I was not doing it right. :)

    Other aversive type trainers that I went to with supposedly many years of experience didn’t get good results with my Shiba either. It was only that one trainer who was able to make leash corrections work.

    And that I think is the main issue with Cesar Millan – most people are not going to be able to use his techniques properly, but because he is so popular – many people will try – and the results may not be good for the people or the dogs. In contrast, reward training is less risky, and while it also does require timing etc – it is easier to execute properly compared aversive training.

  8. Alex says

    1. Cesar would make the other dog submit, but it would have to be done almost instantaneously. The alpha roll isn’t always submitting to the other dog, just having the dog that did wrong understand that what he did was not good, and putting him next to the dog he attacked puts two and two together. But since you were asking what I would do, I would just keep going. The other owner probably wouldn’t like it if I made his dog lay down beside my dog, and since I’m no expert, I wouldn’t want to risk getting my dog or me bitten.
    In that situation, though, the other dog wasn’t stable, which means your dog won’t be submissive around him, only scared. They both have to be submissive to the humans to interact healthily. Remember, dogs will only follow a calm/assertive pack leader, I don’t think that dog was being any of those terms right then.
    2. I wouldn’t use corrections if my dog was fearful (when my dog is acting fearful of strangers, I’ll tell them to ignore him and let him approach them, and if they don’t follow that, I’ll just take my dog away). Maybe I said correction in the wrong place when I was talking about the tooth brushing thing. Since I don’t brush my dog’s teeth (he chews rawhides like crazy so I don’t have to) I’m not sure exactly how I’d do it, but I would make sure my dog was calm/submissive when I did it. What I was getting at, though, was that people shouldn’t let their dogs tell them what to do. For example, if I was giving my dog a bath, and all of a sudden he snapped at me, I would correct him until he stopped, and keep on with his bath. The problem with what you might do (I’m assuming you’d put your dog in isolation, if not, tell me) is that if I would do that, he wins. He’d get what he wanted, to get out of taking a bath, and so he learns snapping = no bath = good. Or more directly, snapping = good/gets him what he wants. But like I said, the way you do it, this may not arise.
    3. Maybe you weren’t doing it right. Cesar’s methods take a lot of time to understand (I would know). If you do not use physical corrections at the right time and at the right intensity level, they most likely will get a worse response instead of better. My dog has never been aggressive, but he is a bit stubborn. One time when he was just a couple of months old he started guarding a bone from us. We took care of that right away, though, and he hasn’t done it since. I think any way can work for any dog (except extremely “red-zone” aggressive cases, in which case I’m unsure). I’ve never seen a red zone case rehabilitated with solely positive reinforcement. Its just a matter of how well and how fast it will work.
    4. I usually don’t even reply to people who are being negative. They’re just not worth the time. Just today I got this back from somebody on YouTube, “The show says to consult a professional because of the Humane Society. NatGeo also knew people would try Cesar’s idiotic ideas, get hurt doing so, and that could expose them to legal liability.
    The Humane Society refers to Millans techniques as “inhumane, outdated, and improper”. The SPCA, CPDT and other professional organizations are all critical of him and his methods. He is an outcast in his own profession. Dogs read and react to body language. All his talk about energy is nonsense.” As if what the Humane Society and SPCA think are some kind of proof as to his credibility.
    Here is the one I was talking about in my earlier post, “Just because he uses different words dosn’t mean anything. Also if you use force to train your dog then you arnt any kind of dog owner. The only thing you are fulfilling is your need to feel dominace over your dog. Victorias methods are world renowned for being the most effective in dog training but many of the leading dog experts around. Just because you copy what ceasar does on the TV in your own home means nothing.

    Always fun chatting with you, too.
    Want to see my dog on our tread mill? He could off leash on it after only three days of training, without treats! (I tried treats, but he would cough and choke on them) running + eating doesn’t work.) This was when he was seven months old.

    Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD7e4DueOYk

  9. shibashake says

    Heh – yeah many people don’t like the term tripod – but it is easier to type than 3 legged dog. Shania was born with a crooked leg – her leg bones did not connect properly. We tried to straighten the bones, but it did not work, so the surgeon had to amputate.

    You bring up some very interesting points -
    1. What do you think Cesar would do wrt. the dog meeting scenario? I think Cesar would want the dogs to meet and maybe have the dog that charged submit to the other dog? Which in itself is a bit strange because in the wild, the submissive dog would be the one that was submitting.

    2. “My dog doesn’t like putting on his collar sometimes. In this case, forcing him to put it on will only make the object more negative, that’s why I get his favorite food –chicken- to entice him in”
    Hmmm – I suppose what I don’t yet understand is why you would use food in this case, whereas in another similar case, e.g. dog being fearful of another dog, or dog being fearful of teeth brushing, you would use corrections?

    3. “We can’t all have a dog like this, unfortunately, so most of us have to make an effort to gain a dog’s respect.”
    Heh – that is very true. I had to go through a lot with my Shiba Inu because he is dominant, stubborn, and easily bored. Interestingly though, reward training worked a lof better on him than aversive training. I think an important point is that just because a dog is more dominant does not mean that he will respond better to physical corrections. Often times, physical corrections just make these dogs even more aggressive.

    4. “They then proceeded to bash me for it, and tried to make me feel like my ways were bad.”
    Actually I can relate to this. As I told you, I started out with aversive training so when I was looking around for other methods, I got shouted at and scolded by a lot of people. I always think it is very ironic that these people should support the use of reward techniques on dogs and yet use aversive techniques on people. :)

    Always fun chatting with you.

  10. Alex says

    Haha, “tripod” what a silly word for a three legged dog. By the way, how did your dog become a tripod?

    Well, in that case, since the dogs charged you, that tells me right off the bat that they have bad energy, energy that I wouldn’t want my dog to be around. I wouldn’t force my dog to meet them, in fact, your dog was probably telling you that she doesn’t agree with their energy, and so she did not want to be around them. She was teaching you something about dogs that day if this is what she was doing.

    While it’s not always a dominance thing, meaning that your dog isn’t trying to be dominant, it still might have roots in your pack leadership (I hear this argument a lot, that not every behavior problem is due to dominance, a lot of the PR side think we attribute everything to dominance). There are very few truly dominant dogs, because only so many can be leaders. That doesn’t mean it’s not based in whether you’re being a true-enough pack leader. Take my Grandma’s dog for example; Caleah is an insecure, fearful, aggressive dog. Her true nature is no where near that of a confidant pack leader, and yet these problems are all related to dominance. How? Well, my grandma and uncle treat her as a leader. When there isn’t a human filling in the space of pack leader, they HAVE to fill that position, for the survival of their pack. Being the pack leader, she has no one to protect her because she is the one that is doing the protecting; this makes her very stressed and on-edge. Not being a confident dog and not being suited to be pack leader makes her insecure and aggressive to anything or anyone strange, because of all the things that are being placed on her to do that she is not suited for. It’s not really a question of if your dog is being dominant; it’s more a question of if you’re being pack leader. A lot of times insecurity, fear, aggression, and territorial behavior are all a product of not having a pack leader to tell them right from wrong or to make them feel protected. Other things like obsession (sometimes rooted in insecurity), hyperactivity, destructiveness, and pacing, whining, barking, and other behaviors are because of lack of exercise. They have to have some way of getting rid of their excess energy. The main two reasons for most behavior problems are lack of exercise, lack of leadership, or a combination of both.

    Him not liking tooth brushing isn’t a dominance thing, you’re right, but when he tells you “no tooth brushing” he’s giving you an order. Now, the way you do it might not give him the chance to tell you “no”. Like, if you started to brush his teeth and he bit you, then he’d be telling you “NO”, but the way you do it this might not arise, and so you’re position isn’t challenged. I wolf packs they do mostly just wander around and do their own thing, but if the leader tells them to do something they will do it, because it might be very important for survival. If one of the followers has pups (only the alpha female is supposed to have pups), most of the time the leader will claim the pups. If the other female tries to be a mother to the pups the alpha will punish her for it until she stops trying. It may sound harsh, but it’s just the way things go. Not saying that if your dog has pups you should steal them and punish her for getting around them, just that in a pack, what the alpha says goes. The dog’s feelings aren’t hurt; they just understand that in order to have a stable pack, there needs to be clear guidelines for the followers to follow.

    My dog doesn’t like putting on his collar sometimes. In this case, forcing him to put it on will only make the object more negative, that’s why I get his favorite food –chicken- to entice him in. Once he feels pretty comfortable with coming towards the collar, I’ll slip it on while he’s taking the chicken. This way he voluntarily comes to and puts on the collar.
    To be a pack leader you don’t have to tell your dog every action to make, but you do have to have rules, boundaries, and limitations. Once you set these up and your dog understands the rules, you have to correct them if they do something that is a “no-no,” like peeing on the floor, getting on the couch, eating out of the garbage, or going upstairs. Until your dog understands these guidelines and follows them, you need to supervise to make sure every time he has a chance to do an unwanted behavior you can take action if he does. Once he understands, it is much less likely for him to do these things, and you can relax. Your leaders set up the rules for you in the beginning too, I hope. If just takes more persistence for a dog to learn the rules because you can’t just sit them down and tell them what to and not to do, you have to be there when the action occurs to disprove.

    As for your last question; If your dogs respect you and do what you say most of the time, look to you for guidance, depend on you for their protection, then yes. I can’t be there to observe the way you and your dogs interact, so I can’t really know if you’re leader or not. One doesn’t have to use corrections to be a pack leader. That is why there are many ways to train dogs! Some dogs are just naturally calm/submissive, no matter what the human is at the moment. We can’t all have a dog like this, unfortunately, so most of us have to make an effort to gain a dog’s respect.

    Thank you for being so open. Often when I try and talk to someone who doesn’t use Cesar’s methods I only get sour, bitter responses. Just the other day I said to someone that Cesar’s ways are not cruel and that they are about fulfilling your dog’s needs, and they told me that the only needs I was fulfilling was the need to feel dominant over my dog. They then proceeded to bash me for it, and tried to make me feel like my ways were bad.

  11. shibashake says

    Now this is getting really interesting. Here is a different scenario that I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on.

    So the other day I was out walking my tripod Siberian Husky. We met up with two off-leash dogs in our neighborhood, one of them charged us. This spooked my Sibey – she has a submissive and fearful temperament, and being a tripod feels more vulnerable around other dogs. The owner comes out and gets his dogs under control.

    Then we slowly approach the dogs who are now just sitting. We get closer and closer, and finally my Sibey decides that she isn’t really up for meeting them, and walks away before we reach them. I did not force her to meet. What would you do here?

    The key thing about this incident is that it is clearly not a dominance thing. Just because a dog does not do something that we ask them to, does not mean that it has dominance implications. There are many other reasons for non-compliance. Even in dog/wolf packs, they are not always practicing dominance/submission behaviors. Most of the time, they are just living their life.

    My Shiba Inu does not really like teeth brushing – that’s it – it has nothing to do with dominance. He prefers to do pretty much anything else compared to teeth brushing. It is just a preference – nothing to do with dominance.

    Similarly, he likes cheese, but doesn’t like his kibble as much. So often, he won’t eat his kibble. However, I only give him a certain amount of cheese and a certain amount of kibble – so if he only eats the cheese, he will go hungry. But I don’t force him to eat the kibble – he eats it himself when he is hungry. The end result – he still eats the amount of kibble that I want him to eat and the amount of cheese I want him to eat – so he ends up doing what I want, but I let him decide when he wants to eat each thing.

    I suppose I feel that it is not necessary to control every action in order for me to be leader. Personally, the best leaders I have had, are the ones that do not micro-manage everything that I do.

    As a last question – in your mind then do you think that I am not a leader to my dogs? Does one need to use corrections to be a leader? Just curious – so please be honest :)

  12. Alex says

    I in no way see rewarding as bribing, I see them as two different things. Like in the Dog Whisperer episode with the old lady and the dingo. The lady would always fall back on treats to get he dog to do anything, and the dog would only sometimes comply when it felt like it, where as the son of the lady could get the dog to do almost anything just by expecting it to do what he wanted. She was negotiating with the dog and not being the pack leader.

    Well, the reason to have him do it then is because when he decides he doesn’t want to do it, he’s telling you that he has the power to control what you do -not to brush his teeth- and becomes your leader in that situation. Pack followers are supposed to do what the pack leader tells them. By doing it in a calm manner and having him realize that tooth brushing can be a calming, bonding experience for him makes you a nice pack leader.

    I’m not, I can see you really wish to understand and you care about your dogs.

  13. shibashake says

    Hi Alex – Thanks for explaining it so well.

    Now I understand where you are coming from. Although, we may just have to agree to disagree :)

    With reward training, you motivate behaviors by giving rewards or taking away rewards. So I suppose what we see as motivation, you see as bribery.

    With aversive training, you motivate behaviors by giving or taking away an aversive stimulus. So if the dog does not perform, he gets a correction until he performs. What you see as motivation, some people may call cruel or harsh (not me – I don’t like to use these terms either way – just mentioning it here as a contrast to the bribery term :) )

    You also combine your aversive techniques with reward techniques in that you not only stop corrections upon compliance, but you also give a reward for positive reinforcement.

    According to animal behavioral psychology, both types of operant conditioning works. With reward training the dog performs the behavior because of the reward, with aversive training the dog performs the behavior because of the correction/aversive stimulus. Dogs have their own needs so you must give them a reason/motivation to perform certain behaviors.

    I suppose what I don’t really understand is why it is so important to have the dog do the brushing at that particular time. It really doesn’t matter to me when the brushing occurs, so I just do it when my dog is most receptive to the activity. So what my dog gives is he lets me brush his teeth, which he doesn’t really like, and what I give my dog is I let him decide when he is most comfortable to have the brushing occur. Ultimately my dog gives me what I want, but I take his needs into account while doing it.

    I suppose the other thing that I am not clear on is why use corrections, when you can achieve the same end result (i.e. your dog having his teeth brushed) with just rewards.

    Please do not take any of this as criticism or anything like that – I am truly just trying to understand where you are coming from :) Thanks for a very interesting discussion.

  14. Alex says

    Hello Shiba (What is your name?) :D

    My exam was fine, it only took me a couple of minutes to do. I got the best grade I could possibly get on my presentation and report, so I’m happy with that.

    What I was getting at was that bribery and reward are two very different things. Bribery should not be used, and rewarding should, at the right time. If food and treats are the only way you can get your dog to do anything, and if it’s not there they simply will not do it, it’s bribery. But if they will do something without food and you give them food to reinforce, that’s rewarding. See the difference?

    Most of the time a pack leader does just ask. But being calm and assertive, and the pack leader, makes the dog comply. Dogs will naturally just do what a pack leader tells them for the good of the pack. Sometimes the dog will try and defy the pack leader, and for the good of the pack, the leader will correct to keep everyone balanced.
    In the case of your dog and the teeth brushing, they way I would probably do it is this; first, I would make sure the dog was good and calm. I would have already calmed him down, maybe taken him for a walk, etc. Once he was calm I would put a leash on him, take him to the spot I wanted, and tell him to sit. Still making sure he was calm, I would come out with the tooth brush and paste, lift his lips and brush. If he struggled or tried to pull away, I would correct him, and once he was calm I would continue. Repeat until done, then give treats and affection. This way, the dog associates tooth brushing with being calm, and eventually I could just do it without the leash.
    Both ways are a give and take relationship, in Cesar’s, he gives leadership, fulfillment of needs, love, and in turn the dog gives him compliance, affection, and a fulfillment of his human emotions that want to love a dog.

    It’s hard to explain complex things like this over the internet. D:

  15. shibashake says

    Hello Alex,
    How are you? Hope your exams went well.

    In general, I do not like the use of the word “bribery” when it comes to dog training. Words are powerful things and using a highly negative word like that on a perfectly valid dog training technique convinces some dog owners (not you) to not want to use food at all, which I think is detrimental to dog training.

    But I am still not sure that I understand your distinction between the two terms. For me its all reward techniques – which means you reward to encourage certain behaviors. Now some dog owners reward at the wrong time, thereby inadvertently encouraging bad behaviors – but that is an issue with timing.

    You bring up a good point with the pleading. That is probably more an issue with timing and energy – and not an issue with food. It doesn’t matter which techniques you are using, if you approach with weak energy or angry energy, your dog is not going to listen to you – whether food is involved in the equation or not.

    “this usually invoves the owner pleading for their dog to do what they want, not telling the dog what to do.”

    This actually brings up a really good point that relates to something you brought up in your other comment – what type of leader a dog owner should be.

    For me *pleading* and *telling* are not the only two options for leadership. In between these two extremes are a range of many different possible dog-human relationships.

    I don’t plead with my dogs, nor do I always tell them they must do something. Most of the time, I *ask* them to give me certain behaviors. Frequently, they will comply.

    For example I ask my Siberian to lie down and hold still while I brush her teeth. She always complies because she gets good treats out of it. My Shiba Inu is a bit different. Sometimes he doesn’t feel like teeth brushing. So it is quite simple – he doesn’t do teeth brushing, he doesn’t get the food that he likes. I count to three, and if he doesn’t want to do it, I leave. Later on, I try again and he is usually in a much more receptive state.

    I suppose I could tell him to do it and then force him to do it the first time – but I prefer the give and take relationship that we currently have. In the end, we both get what we want – I get to brush his teeth 3 times a week and he gets his yummy cheese. I am still his leader, and there is no pleading, but I am not a dictator. With give and take, there is consensus with the least amount of unpleasantness, and no need for violence or force.

    This is a separate property from being calm/assertive. You can be a calm/assertive dictator, or you can be a calm/assertive democratic leader. That is what I mean by “type of leadership”.

  16. Alex says

    What I was trying to say in my last comment was that you shouldn’t bribe your dog (meaning that you parctically have to give it to him before they do something), because then they arn’t doing it because you say. I give my dog treats all the time, but he doesn’t know he’s going to get the treat until after he does what I tell him, because I taught him to do things by giving him a treat every time he did a trick, and then slowly started varying when he got the treat until he’d just do it no matter what. That’s a good way to treat your dog. Since my dog isn’t very food motivated, though, treating him hardly works in correcting or redirecting behavior.

    There is a big difference between bribery and reward. When you’re bribing them, they’re doing it only because it gaurantees them a nummy treat, and this usually invoves the owner pleading for their dog to do what they want, not telling the dog what to do.
    Reward is when you teach your dog to do something, using treats as a reward only after they do the thing you want. This creates a positive reinforcement to do what you want, and eventualy you can treat infrequently with great results.

    I give my dog food only after he’s had a good walk and has calmed down. this reinforces what state of mind he’s in, so I always make sure it’s a good state.

  17. shibashake says

    Hi Alex,
    Thanks for your comments :)

    I think that bribery may be the wrong term to use. As you pointed out though, it is important to know when to treat and when not to treat.

    Reward training, just as aversive training requires timing and technique. So you must reward the dog at the right time, to reinforce a behavior. Similarly, it is very important to time when you start your aversive stimulus and when you stop it.

    All training requires timing.

    “It only becomes bribery when you have to have the treat out in front of their nose where they know you’re going to give it to them when they do something.”

    Personally, I am happy to give my dogs some food for doing something for me :) In fact, rather than just giving them food in a bowl for doing nothing, I use their food to get them to behave well, to do training, to do grooming, and to exercise.

    “hard ass to your dogs doesn’t work, and just rewarding your dog doesn’t either”

    This is very true. That is why reward techniques consists of 2 parts – granting a resource and taking away a resource. When you want to reinforce a behavior, you motivate by giving a reward, e.g. food. When you want to stop a bad behavior, you motivate by taking away a reward/resource, e.g. freedom, access to people, access to other dogs, etc.

    Reward techniques are actually not just for encouraging behavior, but it can be effectively used to stop bad behaviors as well.

    My Shiba Inu is an extremely dominant dog and he had many bad behaviors when I first got him. I started using aversive techniques, which did not work out well for me. The thing that worked best was to revoke his rights and freedoms when he started misbehaving, and he quickly learnt that the best way to get what he wants is to do what I want first. :)

  18. Alex says

    You can use treats and food rewards to motivate your dog without bribing them. It only becomes bribery when you have to have the treat out in front of their nose where they know you’re going to give it to them when they do something. I think that a balance between both methods is best. Food can work in alot of circumstances, and so can “adversive” training.

    This is what Cesar does. He uses the best of both worlds, because just being a hard ass to your dogs doesn’t work, and just rewarding your dog doesn’t either. Only when these two are combined can we reach the true balance of pack leadership.

    If those methods work for you, that’s terrific! People should find a way that works for them and gets their dogs to have manners. Alot of times we get so caught up in one way or another that we fail to even give the other side a chance. It is sad that people limit themselves like this, because there is just so much out there! Why hold yourself back, right?

  19. shibashake says

    Hello KayKay,
    Actually I think that many people use a combination of both reward and aversive based dog training techniques. Some dog trainers that I talked to say that using both types of techniques may end up being confusing to the dog, but I am not very sure that I buy this argument.

    As for me, I only use reward based techniques because I have tried out aversive techniques and they did not work out well for me or my dogs. The key issue with aversive techniques for me, is that it was starting to erode trust between me and my dogs. I also found it to be a lot less effective in terms of motivating my dogs, and ensuring that everyone (human and canine) enjoys a good quality of life.

    I still have rules that my dogs have to follow, but I enforce those rules by managing their resources rather than using the more physical methods. And this has worked out very well for me and my dogs.

    I think everyone has to discover what works best for them, and it may not be what works for someone else.

  20. KayKay says

    Why can’t someone use both methods equally? They both have their purposes and I think they both are also misunderstood.

  21. rchicaferro says

    Super Hub! I found myself thinking about how I positively react when I get an annual bonus – I don’t usually roll over and wag my tail but it certainly comes close! Treats work!!

  22. shibashake says

    Hi Ashley, What you say is true. Both can be used to positively condition a dog towards certain behaviors.

    Most of the dogs I know are much more food motivated than they are people motivated though. I gotta get me more of those people motivated ones :)

  23. Ashley Joy says

    I have trained lots of dogs in the past and some have not needed these little treats at all. Some dogs are so eager to please your obvious happiness with them and patting on the head is enough. But whether it is affection or treats it is positive reinforcement more than bribery.

  24. shibashake says

    Thanks for dropping by mdawson.

    Yeah, using food is a great way to get your dogs to come to you. I have seen some people call their dog, and then punish the dog because he took too long to get there. Later, they wonder why their dog no longer comes when called. Me-thinks the dog is the smart one here :)

  25. shibashake says

    Hi Brad, Yeah, I think the treats and praise combo is the best way to go. My Siberian is good with a combination of both, but my Shiba is an extremely stubborn dog. Even with food, he is iffy at best. I pretty much use *everything* available to motivate him. I don’t think I have met a more stubborn breed. :)

    Love that picture of your dog. Looks like she has socks on :)

  26. mdawson17 says

    Great Hub in my very few times of having to make a dog mind (I.E.. to come inside or to catch them) I had to bribe them with food and yes it does work!!

    mdawson17

  27. brad4l says

    While training my dog, which of course is a continual process, I have found that a combination of both praise and food has been very effective. Once she learns with food, I like to make the switch to praise. Now, my dog is motivated by food, but not obsessed about it.

  28. shibashake says

    Iphigenia, what you say is very interesting.

    When I was growing up, my dad used the reward/bribery approach on me while my mom tended to use more of the stick approach. I think that my dad got better results :)

    But I can see that using too many bribes may make a child not take responsibility for his/her own actions. Still though, I think children and also adults, respond better to reward based methods.

    Karen Pryor has a book called “Don’t Shoot the Dog” where she talks mostly about dog training, but she also includes many examples with her children, family, and friends.

    The children-bribery hub would also be very interesting to write :)

  29. Iphigenia says

    I usually have some ‘treats’ on me when we go out – a handful from the measured daily ration of food so that the dogs dog put on weight. Dogs are dogs not people, their motivations are different and to reward them using treats has different implications than, say, bribing a child with the promise of a treat in return for doing something that they have to do – homework, tidy room etc.

  30. shibashake says

    [rchicaferro] lol – I think if the raise is big enough I will roll-over, get a tail, and manually wag it :)

  31. shibashake says

    Thank you all for stopping by! :)

    [LDT] What you say is very true. Food can be very useful, but only give your dog food when he is calm and giving you a desired behavior.

    [Whitney] Yeah it all depends on the dog. Food motivated dogs are actually easy to train because food is relatively easy to obtain and control. My dogs are very critter motivated. Whenever there is a critter around, everything else flies out the window.  :)

    [quicksand] lol. My mom just slapped my knuckles with a ruler whenever I failed to commit a verse to memory! I like your dad’s way much better :) 

    [Shal] You are lucky. Nothing really works with my little Cujo; especially when he is in one of his “black moods” :)

    [Nancy] lol – I’ll have to remember that :) Now to do some research on your favorite foods. Btw. what did you think of Jon Stewart?

  32. Whitney05 says

    You can also use toys and human interaction if you don’t want to use treats. Some dogs won’t work for food, but will work for their favorite toy or just a little loving.

  33. ledefensetech says

    Great hub. I have a hard time believing that some people think that using treats to train dogs is bribery. They’re dogs, not people.
    When training Lucky, my mutant Dachshund, I tried to use treats when teaching him to speak. Now when he wants something, there are times when he’ll speak to get it, especially when he sees the treat bag. So proper training is important and you have to be sure that you’re training the right behavior and not something else.

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