The Use of Food in Dog Training

Discussion in 'Dog Training: Principle and Practice' started by editor, Feb 12, 2016.

  1. Rosamund

    Rosamund Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Hmm. Thanks a lot. Lots to think about. :) Going to a class definitely focuses my mind on practising during the week so that's also a factor in deciding whether to carry on-as they say, turning up is the best training tool you have. It's a toss up between that and compromising a bit maybe on training techniques although I must say some pretty major alarm bells were ringing when he said it was fine to recall your dog lots of times if she doesn't come first time. Thankfully Vespa never gave me the need to do that. :) Good dog. :) (and I wouldn't have)
    Thanks for all the thoughts. :)
     
  2. heidrun

    heidrun Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Messages:
    3,108
    I have tried to train without food and failed miserably and I consider myself a fairly skilled trainer. If you read Pippa's opening post you can see that she has had the same experience.
    I would absolutely stand my ground with any trainer who poopooed the idea and I would insist on being able to use food as rewards.
     
    Rosamund and JulieT like this.
  3. bbrown

    bbrown Moderator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    11,440
    What are your primary reinforcers if not food?

    I think it's next to impossible to get rate of reinforcement high enough using games or toys and reps take far too long without food.

    I don't consider myself particularly skilled but I can't imagine training without food.

    I have been told on occasion not to use food but I just smile and nod and carry on :D
    In fact one time I was being lectured on the evils of food @heidrun was in full view the other side of the trainer chuckling to herself as she rewarded her dog with food while he was telling me not to do it!!!

    I got slightly more subtle after that ;) ;) ;)
     
    Rosamund, JulieT and drjs@5 like this.
  4. heidrun

    heidrun Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Messages:
    3,108
    That same trainer once said to me that cheese ruins a dog's sense of smell when he saw me giving Caddie a cube of cheese. Five minutes later she eye wiped his field trial champion cocker. :p:D
     
    Rosamund, snowbunny, JulieT and 2 others like this.
  5. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    This is very much the case, in my experience. My older dog is only moderately motivated by food outside, but highly motivated by his environment and toys. I've worked long and hard at motivating him using reinforcement other than food and it is extremely time consuming to the extent of being pretty much impractical. It is possible to train behaviours, but proofing them to any kind of decent standard is very, very, difficult. I've managed to do quite a lot, but the amount of time it has taken with a dog that is high energy has been really excessive.
     
  6. Emily

    Emily Supporting Member Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2015
    Messages:
    2,775
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    I've also tried to train without food but we failed miserably. If I use toys, Ella struggles to switch between 'play' and 'work' so I end up feeling like I'm teasing her "well done Ella, here's your ball, yay your excited, ok give it back now, no playing, work time"

    If I try to train with just praise and ear scratches she doesn't seem to make the connection between the correct action and the praise. Maybe it's because she gets praise and ear scratches around 75% of the day :rolleyes:
     
    Rosamund likes this.
  7. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    14,759
    Location:
    Andorra and Spain
    I wonder what his thoughts are with rewarding with play. As the others have said, it can be impractical because you want to get enough reps in. Certain things like stop whistle and recall I reward with toys, because they are stronger reinforcers and the behaviours are both massively important and tend to be quite long duration in themselves. But for anything with a faster turnaround, food is far more practical.

    But, my initial impression is that he's expecting your dog to work for a "good girl"...
     
    Rosamund likes this.
  8. Rosamund

    Rosamund Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Yes he is..and she did it up to a point but things started to get sloppy eg she started running a bit past me on recall etc and her thoughts were wandering a bit. He generally is happy with 'failing' some of the time and I'd rather set her up to succeed. He gave the whole 'clicker training doesn't prepare dogs to work in the field' thing too and I tried to give examples to say it did work but was a bit out of my depth! Anyway today I did some of his exercises on my own with Vespa but used food as usual and she did them perfectly. :)
    I can certainly see I need to move on a bit and trust her more but will definitely stick with food in private and try the 'subtle' feeding in the class haha. We'll see. Basically I want to do what works!
     
  9. Rosamund

    Rosamund Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Ps seems to be a common problem!
     
  10. bbrown

    bbrown Moderator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    11,440
    Pardon me if I'm not up to speed but what stage of training are you at? If you're working mostly on recall, sit/stay and walking nicely you may be better off with a normal trainer rather than gundog trainer. Then come back to him when you've got solid basics. Most trainers can work on a basic retrieve too as other competitions include it.
    Some of the biggest differences to my mind are the type of ground you train on (gundog stuff is far more varied) and the trainers insight into complex retrieving (and hunting if you've got a spaniel or HPR), wind and ground treatment, and the incredible level of distraction working in the field.

    Teaching a dog to do a single retrieve to hand in a hall or flat field should be within the capabilities of a good standard trainer.
     
    Rosamund likes this.
  11. Rosamund

    Rosamund Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Morning :)
    Vespa walks to heel on and off the lead and her recall is excellent (but as I said when we were there she started getting sloppy with right into me) She can do simple retrieves and memory retrieves no problem and I can direct her left and right but not at a great distance but I can't seem to direct her backwards so blind retrieves can fall apart-and is steady to a point (steadier than I thought according to trainer) but I wouldn't trust her 100% I can stop her mid-recall on a whistle but we're still working on that so not over massive distances yet. She retrieves from water but drops the dummy and shakes before she brings it back. She jumps well but sometimes gets distracted on the other side of the fence and just looks at me. This is how far I've got on my own but as you can see it's all a bit mish mash and that's why I felt I needed help getting to the next stage. It's just for fun but I'd also really like to do it properly.
    Anyway that's how far we've got..I think she's amazing but she's the first dog I've ever owned so I'm a total novice!
     
  12. bbrown

    bbrown Moderator Forum Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    11,440
    It does sound like you're in gundog trainer territory then. Hopefully the trainer will focus on the retrieving side then. She sounds fab and you're not alone in the dropping out of water. Lots of people have challenges round water! ;)
     
    Rosamund likes this.
  13. MaccieD

    MaccieD Guest

    @bbrown and @heidrun it would seem that it's not just my opinion that you can train a dog without food

    "If my dog will not work for food, then how can a positive reinforcement trainer help me train my dog?
    Positive reinforcement training isn't about food, it's about whatever your dog likes well enough to want to work to earn it. The reason we use food most often is because (1) most dogs love to eat, and (2) food is easy to work with. But there are many dogs who work for a tossed ball or a tug on a rope. "

    Quoted from the Pet Professional Guild article " The proper use of food in dog training " . I would add the full article which is an interesting and easy read but not sure how it fits with copyright laws as I can use it for business purposes which obviously the forum isn't
     
  14. heidrun

    heidrun Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2012
    Messages:
    3,108
    That's fine, whatever floats yours or your dog's boat. But food has worked for all of my dogs and what's more it is a far more discreet way to reward in a group setting than a ball or tugging are. Especially if it is more traditional gundog training class as it sounds in Rosamund's case. If they frown upon food as a reward then they would most definitely not be happy about the alternatives you have mentioned, @MaccieD.
     
    Rosamund likes this.
  15. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    Charlie isn't very motivated by food - many very well respected trainers would say (and have said) that's because I failed in the early stages with him in adequately training him with food and building his food motivation. I think this is true, and now I know more I am doing a better job of balancing distractions with food rewards with my new puppy. It is definitely a skill I have learned over time, and it's a shame I didn't appreciate this more with Charlie. We live and learn though.

    So, I do have a dog that is very, very, motivated by toys and access to his environment, and not particularly by food. As I say above, it's near impossible to proof to a high standard using toys - not for any serious standard that would be expected in a gundog class above beginners for example. Lead walking, or walking at heel off lead for example, is extremely difficult to proof using toys, and extremely inconvenient to do in in group or class situations. Being the one that is flinging a ball or a tug toy around, creating distractions for other dogs, is just so far from ideal and very impractical. It's also pretty much impossible to train calm and quiet behaviours using toys. Training a stand, a settle, a calm chin rest and a host of other behaviours is challenging if with every rep you are rewarding with play.
     
    bbrown likes this.
  16. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 25, 2011
    Messages:
    6,015
    My one Lab will do anything for a tennis ball, if I offer him a treat he turns his head aside and looks at my pocket for the ball. My older Lab prefers food and is not interested in having the tennis ball as a rewars! However, when training my older Lab I never knew about rewarding him with a tennis ball, so he may have been different.
     
    MaccieD likes this.
  17. Stacia

    Stacia Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 25, 2011
    Messages:
    6,015
    PS He doesn't get the ball thrown away from him, but on the ground right under his nose!
     
    MaccieD likes this.
  18. Rosamund

    Rosamund Registered Users

    Joined:
    May 8, 2013
    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Glasgow
    Vespa would do annnnnnything for food so it seems the best reward for her but certainly I could and should remember about fading those rewards and work harder at that. Also I think I should make the food much smaller and more descreet so I can use it secretly in class. Haha. I'll try on Sunday. :)

    Problem with using lots of words instead of food (as trainer seems to want to) is that he uses different words every time as if Vespa understands English..He also keeps calling her 'lad'! He then pats her on the head which isn't just not particularly rewarding but something she actually really doesn't like! (I did tell him..)
     
  19. JulieT

    JulieT Registered Users

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2013
    Messages:
    22,884
    Well....my gundog trainer tells us to reward 1:1 unless we are in a position to use environmental rewards. So, if I'm doing recall, stop, retrieve etc reps I reward every time. Once a behaviour is trained and I'm training to maintain it, I have a 1:1 food reward schedule. If though, I happen to have a fast moving, wide, river in front of me (the best reward for Charlie in the whole universe*) I'll ask him for a stop on his way to throw himself headload in the river, and then his 'release' is the reward - to throw himself headlong in the river. :rolleyes: I do ask him for a recall too sometimes, then release, just so I know I could if the water might not be safe etc.

    * Apart from a fast moving, wide river with a dummy thrown in it.
     
  20. charlie

    charlie Registered Users

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2012
    Messages:
    11,353
    Location:
    Hampshire, UK
    This is interesting. When I went to obedience training with Hattie for almost 2 years there was a lady there that had 2 Golden Retrievers, she competed in obedience competitions across the country at a high level and only used a single 6 inch tug rope as a reward for both of her dogs, they both attended the same class every week. The rest of us had our bags of sausage, ham etc. she never produced a treat in all the time I attended the class. Her producing this toy had no effect on the other dogs in the class what so ever and our trainer welcomed whatever motivated our dog(s) :) x
     
    MaccieD likes this.

Share This Page