The Proper Use of Food in Dog Training

Imagine a full grown dog; fur, puppy eyes, and 40 pounds of weight, sitting on your lap after bowling you over for some treats. That was me last Friday as I failed to train my fully-grown dog with some treats.

Dog Training
Development Manager Briana with dog Stella

Food is a great tool for training your dog IF done right! I have learned this the hard way. While my Aussiedoodle food training is a joke, I have succeeded with my other dogs, and I’ll share tips from my experience here.

Finding the right reward for training your dog might not seem easy, especially if it is your first time owning a dog. However, there is a reward that will get the job done. This is where food comes into place.

When it comes to dog training, not many people realize that feeding time and training time go hand in hand. Every modern dog trainer knows that food can be used to reinforce desirable behavior. Besides, food is easy to use and is highly effective when teaching new behavior or resolving behavior problems.

To help you properly use food in dog training, we have created the ultimate post just for you. It debunks myths and breaks down some of the reasons why you need to use dog treats. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in.

Why Use Food To Train Your Dog?

The main reason why you should use food for dog training is that it is easy to use and offers quick results. Treats offer positive results when you give them at the right time. By rewarding your dog for good behavior, you get to encourage them to repeat the behavior.

As you reward your dog with treats, you get to teach it to do what you want it to do. In fact, you can even use it to change its emotional reactions and get it to stop doing things that you do not want it to do. However, if you treat your dog for bad behavior, it would consider it to be appropriate.

Food rewards should be given in small pieces to ensure that they are quickly eaten. It is a good idea to reward your pup frequently to speed up the training. Besides, it will feel good when you give it food. Rather than having to teach your pup to enjoy eating food, you just have to offer the right treat.

The best part? Food training works for any breed at any stage of their life! Whether it is a full grown Staffy or a German Shepherd puppy, it works well.

How to Properly Use Food in Dog Training?

1.     Identify Your Dog’s Favorite Foods

The first thing that you need to do is identify your dog’s favorite foods. Give something to your dog that it would normally want to eat. If your dog is not a fan of hard dog biscuits or dry kibble, you would need to consider getting something else. 

During training, you will require a wide range of foods that are exciting for your dog—the more challenging the situation, the better the treat needs to be. List the foods that your dog likes in order of how excited they become. The following ideas will help you get started.

  • Deli Meat
  • Cheese
  • Hot Dogs
  • Honey Nut Cheerios
  • Freeze-Dried Meat Dog Treats
  • Soft/Smelly Dog Treats

Now, you need to divide the treats into tiny pieces that are no bigger than an M&M. However; if you have a small dog, the treat will need to be half the size of an M&M. If you are concerned about the new food, you should ask your vet about it. It is important to know which ingredients are poisonous to dogs, such as garlic, onions, and xylitol.

2.     Reward Your Dog at the Right Time

Once you know what to give your dog, you need to determine when to reward it. The purpose of a reward is to let your bundle of joy know when it does something right. It helps motivate it to keep going. The more rewards you give your dog, the quicker it would learn and the more eager it would be to please you.

For the best outcome, you need to reward your dog just enough. When trying to teach a new behavior, you would go through a handful of treats within a few minutes. However, you must only reward after the right behavior is shown by your dog.

On the other hand, if you show your dog the treat first, it would either become a lure or a distraction. Although lures and distractions have their uses, they used only be used sparingly to ensure that your dog pays attention to what you want it to do.

Myths about the Use of Food in Dog Training

There are many myths about using food as a reward during dog training. These are mentioned below:

1.     Using Food Causes Your Dog to Beg

A common myth that most people consider to be true is that using food to train their dog will lead to their dog constantly begging for it, especially if it is given food like hot dogs or cheese. However, it could not be further from the truth.

When you use food properly in dog training, you get to ensure that your dog learns that it will not get treats if it misbehaves. Instead, it would understand that only good behavior would be rewarded.

Thus, it would learn to wait for a treat and be on its best behavior. As you reward only the right behavior, you can train your dog not to beg.

2.     Your Dog Only Works for Food

Another myth that needs to be debunked is that your dog only works to get food. You can teach your dog to understand what you want. Then, it would be happy to showcase the right behavior. Thus, the reward would only show your appreciation for good behavior. That is about it.

3.     Your Dog Should Respect You and Do as You Say

A common myth that most people have about dogs is that they should work for you and do as you command. However, the truth is that dogs have their own motivations and will seek out what they want and need.

But, there are some dogs who view people as their ultimate source for everything, whereas others would grab food at every chance and try to run away, which does not necessarily mean that they disrespect you.


Food offers an easy and fast way to reward your pup. However, there are other options as well which are just as good as food such as throwing a ball, taking the leash off of your dog, and cuddling with it. But, it makes perfect sense to incorporate food in your dog training sessions.