I’ve seen trainers make posts and advise people not to use food as it’s just bribery. I’m not going to apologise for saying that trainers that believe this don’t understand the learning theory and they need to look at further training.

The basis of behaviour and learning began in the early 1900s. An American psychologist by the name of B.F Skinner carried out scientific experiments with reward and punishment. The learning theory applies to all animals, including humans. From these experiments, operant conditioning was formed. Operant conditioning deals with choice. Classical conditioning deals with reflex behaviours (Pavlov).

Skinner found out that when a behaviour is rewarded it increased the behaviour, it occurred more frequently. When punished the behaviour. Recent studies of MRI scans of the dog’s brain have proven that reward-based training creates activity in the areas of the dog’s brain linked with learning.

With the current technology, no scientific studies have disproven Skinner’s studies. In fact, they have proven it to be fact. Using rewards have a positive, or good effect on the brain and on behaviour.

If punishment decreases behaviour why not use that? Because it’s a tricky one to get right, the punishment needs to be correct in strength in relation to the behaviour and timed right to be effective, if not it is just adding pain. It has been shown to cause pessimism and depression and is often misunderstood.

Why reward-based training isn’t bribery. Because the rewards are used for learning. You are saying to your dog, yes that’s good, here is a reward. So next time when asked it is far more likely that the dog will do it again. And again, and again.

Once learned (this is after around 100 times of learning) the food can be reduced, and guess what? If you have taught the behaviour correctly and understand how to use rewards then the dog will continue to work with you without food! You just reward every now and then.

Think of it as then working for you and getting paid for it, then, because they love doing it they will continue…..