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Tuesday Training Byte: Using food rewards & lures

This can be a controversial topic among dog trainers. Some will argue not to use food rewards under the premise that you cannot expect the dog to obey when you don't have the treat. And then there is the opposite camp of trainers who use treats exclusively. This method is appropriately named "Learn to earn". I use the method(s) that seem to work best for a given dog and particular situation. My approach leans mostly to positive reinforcement. Under classical conditioning, there is a schedule of four different rewards and punishments: positive reward, negative reward, negative punishment, and positive punishment. These are listed in order of how much I use that form of reinforcement with positive reward used most. Using food is just one form of positive reward, but not the only one. For a better understanding of these terms, positive means + or giving something, while negative means- or taking away something. An example of negative punishment would be to stop playing with the pup the moment he gets nippy (I am taking away the fun play time as punishment). I often use food lures and treats early in a pup's training to help guide them into the position I want and to focus on my hand signals. Of course there are some dogs that are not food motivated, or perhaps too distracted in a strange place to care much about the yummy treat. Using food rewards and lures can make your dog eager, more focused, and learn faster. However, it is just one tool and it is not feasible to carry food to treat your dog for every correct move it makes. Using classical conditioning, I have four different categories to choose from, with multiple options in each category- so lots of "tools" from which to pick. Happy training!


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