Food or Praise: The Ultimate Dog Training Debate

The general school of thought that dogs "will work for food" has been mainstream for a very long time. Treats are the cornerstone behind most dog training programs, companies even formulate tiny low-calorie training treats solely for that purpose, and you probably witness the magic of food and your dog when cooking in your own kitchen. And, while it turns out that the "will work for food" mentality is often true, it is not for all dogs.

Researchers have performed brain scans on dogs to determine whether they responded more to food or praise as a reward. The dogs were scanned to see how different areas of the brain "lit up" in response to food or a toy presented by their owner with verbal praise. The researchers then conducted a test where the dog could decide which direction to go--toward a treat or their owner and praise.

The dogs that initially responded to food, usually went for the food, and vice versa. Researchers hope to use these preferences to help determine service dog jobs. Food is nice, but not good in every situation.

So the point is, when training, use rewards, such as a pat, toy, praise or a game, as well as food. Figure out whichever your dog likes better and use that. You do not always have to give a treat, but your dog should "work" for whatever they get. In fact, try other things as a reward to help your pet keep their figure slim. Sometimes a nice pat will do, thank you!

To learn more about this research study, please see this article in Science Magazine.

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