Using food in training is your best option to create social, confident, and obedient dogs for your clients.
Many modern dog trainers utilize food in training. While food is an incredibly practical way to motivate dogs, it serves another important functions when it comes to the dog’s confidence. Simply put, food has the power to change how an animals feels about certain situations.
In the article “Preventative Counterconditioning…because bad stuff happens” by Awesome Dogs, the trainer uses an unexpected life event as a chance to countercondition her dogs before they get a chance to make an emotional connection to the situation. Her neighbors were having a huge and loud party and she took the opportunity to feed her dogs chicken. This ensured that the dogs made a good, positive association with the experience before they could decide for themselves.
Proper socialization should occur in this manner as well. Its important to help the puppy learn about their environment and teach them that the world is a fun a safe place. Socialization will occur either way so you need to step in and make sure they are creating positive connections with their discoveries by using food in training. In other words, this is also a form of “preventative counterconditioning.”
Chicken Is Powerful
Food has the power to change a dog’s emotional reaction towards stimuli (people, dogs, and other possibly scary things). It is easily deliverable to the dog’s mouth as they observe their environment which makes it an ideal tool to use in training. Granted the dog is not over threshold and too close to their feared trigger, food can help teach a dog new behaviors while creating positive associations and connections in their brains. Just like when people eat their favorite comfort foods, those “feel good” chemicals called endorphins are released in the brain. That warm fuzzy feeling is then paired with the dog’s trigger to make a new connection – “that scary thing makes awesome stuff happen, maybe it isn’t quite so scary anymore!” Basically, food has the power to make the world less scary for any dog.