Myths About Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

Myths and Misinformation About Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

If I use food to train my dog he'll never work for me when I don't have food in my hand.
When training with food is done right, the dog does not become reliant on it to perform a behavior. Food is simply used initially because dogs don't have to be taught to enjoy it and work for it. Dogs also learn better when rewards are dispensed more like a slot machine and less like a vending machine. Sometimes they'll get a food reward, sometimes petting, other times a game of ball or even nothing. It becomes a game of slots to them and they "gamble" on getting a prize. Go to APDT for some guidelines to selecting a good dog trainer. You may want to look for a trainer with the CPDT certification, an indication that the trainer has a certain level of experience and knowledge about learning theory, behavior, and ethology.

Positive trainers let a dog get away with anything.
That's simply not true. Most positive dog trainers do use some form of "punishment" such as removing something a dog wants. Other trainers will teach a dog a word like "oops" or "too bad" as a way of marking "wrong answers" for the dog. You'll need to find a trainer that uses consequences for your dog that you are comfortable with, that meet your training goals, and that work for your dog.


Written by Cara Shannon, who is the owner and one of the trainers at Buddy's Chance, LLC Austin Dog Training and Daycare. She teaches dog training classes for pet dog owners in Central Austin and consults on problem dog behaviors.