Why use food?

Dogs are like any other animals on this planet, they have certain needs and desires. When we train dogs we need to know what motivates them. Depending on the situation such as that the dog has insecure issues or more interests in toys, the majority of the time you begin to use food as a tool for training new obedience of behavior. If the dog responds to this reward, it is commonly known as “food drive.” Food drive is defined as the dog’s willingness to do behaviors for food. Some dogs have very strong food drive, to the point that you have fed them a few hours prior and they will still go crazy when they see more food. Then there are dogs who need a little bit of buildup in their food drive.

How do we build up food drive?

The way you to build up food drive is very simple. You cut back on the amount of food that you give your dog daily. This will build up the interest in the food more than before. If you feed your dog 3 cups a day, then you will go down to two and half cups or even 2 cups a day. It is very common for people to over feed their dog and many times it is not their fault. Owners will go by the back of the bag of dog food and comply with the instructions written there. The instructions on the back will state to feed a certain amount and many times that is way too much.

There are no free meals?

One of the best ways to grade the behavior that you want is to have the dog work for food as stated earlier. So keep the mindset that the dog will only get fed when you work them. If the dog does not want to work for food, then they will not eat. Please keep in mind this is not all a cruel method, it is up to the dog.

What are the types of treats that we can use for training?

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer - Happy Howie's

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer – Happy Howie’s

No matter what food you use for training please keep in mind that the size is very important. For example, it is better to feed a treat that is very small so that they could eat it and go back to training. If you give them a treat that is too big then it will take a minute or so to eat. This will delay the training and shorten the amount of reps done. In training, reps are a vital component in creating a new behavior or command.

The size of the treat should be no bigger than a dime. This will be small enough that you can hide it in your hand for luring and quick enough that they could eat it fast. Even the treats that you slice up should be that size.

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer - Zukes

Poughkeepsie Dog Trainer – Zukes

The following are treats that you can use or food that you can use.

  1. Kibble or dry food that you are already feed your dog.
  2. Zukes
  3. Dog cookies that are broken up in smaller pieces
  4. Rolled up treats such as “Happy Howie” cut up into small pieces

Using food will help you in the success of creating better behaviors and obedience, particularly after combining that with reps. Working today will create a better dog tomorrow.

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Doing a Job Without Being Paid

Do you struggle with your dog? Does your dog brush you off with every command that you ask them to do? Are you having trouble when you ask them to come to you or to stay? Well, you’re not alone, this is a very common issue. People always ask why doesn’t my dog listen to me? No matter what I do my dog does something else.  All of these dog owners have no clue what is going on. But the answer is very simple, you are not paying your dog.

Paying my dog? What do you mean by that? It is very simple – after your dog does a command or a task, they need to know that they did something good or something that they will work for.  Obviously money does not mean anything to dogs. So what is money in dog terms? There are three basic reward systems that you can use to build a better relationship with your dog.

For us to understand this the best way to think of it is this example. We all go to work and we get paid afterwards, whether it is every week or every two weeks. We are doing a job and a reward as humans is money. Now to extend this example, when we do a really good job we get bonuses. A bonus is extra money given at the end of the year for doing excellent work, or if we do the job really well we get promoted, which is another form of receiving an award.

We do all these of things to reward employees but when it comes to dogs we forget that they need rewards too. What can happen if they are not rewarded is the opposite reaction. So if you have a dog and you don’t reward them for the good behavior they will show more bad behavior and get attention for that behavior. So in other words, they are getting rewarded for that behavior more than for good behavior.

The following are rewards that you can use to promote good behavior or teach your behavior/command:

  1. FOOD

hudson valley dog trainer food treats

hudson valley dog trainer food treats

Food is one of the top rewards that you can use on any dog. It is very useful in teaching puppies new behavior, but it can teach any dog good behavior if they have what is called the food drive. Food drive is a term that means that the dog is willing to do a task or behavior for that piece of food. Every dog is different. Some dogs will have more food drive than others or sometimes you have to develop a food drive. A simple way of doing that is only feeding your dog when you are working them, in other words when you are teaching them a new obedience command or behavior. You will start with using food all of the time to teach that new command or behavior and then fade away the food. After the dog has been trained you can still use the food to make them work and that will strengthen your leadership with your dog. Lastly, food does not work on every dog, especially dogs that are insecure. If the dog is insecure, in some situations that dog will not take any food. In that case, the best strategy is to go to is praise.

  1. TOY

Toy is the second best reward because all dogs like to play. As mentioned before every dog is different

hudson valley dog trainer dog toy

hudson valley dog trainer dog toy

and some dogs will have more toy drive than food drive. The definition of toy drive is the willingness to learn or do a command/behavior for the chance to play with the toy. Then there are also dogs that are willing to do both: work for food and toy. Many sports dogs and working dogs are trained on both.

Safety tip on toys: I highly recommend a ball with a rope than without. Many dogs have choked on balls that get stuck in the throat.



The praise reward can be used anytime and anywhere. So if you don’t have food and you don’t have toys with you, you can give them a “GOOD BOY!” or pet them. Many dogs love the rubdown, so if the dog does what you asked them to do, make them feel good by rubbing them down. This reward can be done after food and toy. This is an especially good reward for dogs that are insecure and will not take food or play with toys.

Please keep in mind if you don’t give them any good rewards and you yell at them every time they do something bad, they will do more bad stuff to get the attention that they are looking for.


All of the rewards up to this point are physical items (except for the verbal). But sometimes you can use an item or a willingness to do something as a reward. For example, when I am training a new dog not to run out the door when it opens, their desire reward is to go outside. They do not get that reward until they wait for the door to open and I release them to go out. So to review that example again, going outside is the reward.

Unconventional items can also be used as a reward. I have seen a trainer use a balloon as a reward. It all comes down to what the dog desires to do as a behavior.

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