Treats and Training...and Getting to Know Your Dog

The pendulum has certainly changed from when I started obedience training 30 years ago...Then, it was almost all collar corrections and praise. Gradually things have changed and now the pendulum has swung in an arc over to treat training: treats for a straight front, finish, about turns; treats are used as a positive reward for a "job" done right. But I think that lost in all that food - and I'm not saying treats don't work - cuz they certainly do, and it is the standard training for almost all high - achieving competitive dogs, is the fact that a genuine word softly spoken, a direct look in your dog's eye, and a feeling that passes between the two of you is effective, and in my opinion, is more genuine and fosters a true bond with your dog.

I feel that treats are motivating and I have used some, but to go to a deeper level where you really understand your dog and they are proud they pleased you and you smile at them and say, "Good Dog!" - to me, that is better than treats. When reading my latest magazine from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, I saw an article about whether animals feel emotions. Gregory Berns, PHD, M.D., a Neuro scientist at Emory University, put trained dogs through MRI's to examine specific pathways in their brains when they experience things humans like. The focus was on comparing responses to food versus the responses to social rewards like praise. Of the 15 dogs in the study, 13 showed responses to praise in the brain's reward system that were equal or greater than their response to food. "As a result", Berns states, "we can say with certainty that dogs value the social bond, (praise) with people as much as the food."

Sometimes I feel I am swimming upstream in the present day current of dog shows. I do treat sometimes, but I value the deeper bond and feeling I get when I go below that surface snack and feel a connection. We exchange glances and I feel a feeling pass between us. That is why I dog train.