Puppy Training Tips & Advice

Hello everybody and welcome to the coolest dog training channel. I’m Tom Davis, America’s Canine Educator, and today I’m going to go over an efficient, fast, easy-to-follow blueprint for developing the perfect puppy for you. I’m also going to cover frequently asked questions about Puppy Training and the many crucial mistakes puppy owners make when training their puppy.

The first thing I’m going to talk about is how to reward your dog. I know that sounds silly because you cut up some hot dogs and some cheese and you give it to him and he does something, right? Yes and no. There are some key components to rewarding your dog properly, so you don’t actually develop bad habits.

Using Positive Reinforcement to Train Your Puppy

In my video I work with Missy. She’s a 7-month old chocolate lab puppy who is learning basic puppy skills. In the video I use Missy to show you how to correctly start applying food or any positive reinforcement to teaching new behaviors. What I’m going to teach you is the right way, and the theory behind the right way. Then I will show show you what most people do that actually causes negative effects in the future.

First, you will want to take the food and use it as a tool to reinforce the behavior in the future. It is important not to depend on it or use it as some sort of bribery system. So on a basic command, such as sit, I’m going to ask her to sit, and if she sits, I say, “Yes good sit.” I’m adding in two different positive reinforcements here. I’m saying, “Yes good sit,” in a very pleasant manner with my voice, and I’m also rewarding her with physical affection. Really, to be honest, when you walk into a room with your dog, they absolutely love you, and you don’t have to add in all the extra stuff that people think they do. And that’s why I made this video. Because many times people will go to training class with six packs of hot dogs and that actually isn’t really teaching the dog to do stuff. It’s just feeding the dog, and hoping they do what you ask them to do.

I really want you to understand how to teach instead of bribe your dog into position. So now what I’m going to talk about what commonly most people will do under these circumstances with food and a puppy.

Food: Bribe vs. Reward

Three dogs looking at camera

You’ll notice that, in the sit position, Missy was on my left-hand side. Unfortunately, what a lot of people do is they stop, they get in front of the dog, and they put up their hand with food and command, “Sit”, and the dog sits. Now the question is, did the dog do what we asked? Of course, when you have a piece of food out and you get in front of a dog and raise your hand, the dog is going to sit. The problem with this is that the behavior you want from your dog is hidden underneath all this other stuff. You want the dog to understand the behavior so when you aren’t standing directly in front of the dog or holding a piece of food, the command still works. So doing all of those things is not necessarily benefiting the dog. It’s just forcing or luring the dog into position. It makes you look good, it makes other trainers look good, but that’s not our style.

Don’t get me wrong we use food in our trainings, too, but as a reward at the end. Because eventually the food goes away. And when you’re out of food or you forget it, the dog is not going to know what to do because what they trained with isn’t available. So you ask your dog to do something, and then they’re like, “Wait a minute, I get something for doing this. I’m not going to do it for free,” and it becomes a huge problem.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a dog out and I ask the owner what the dog knows, and they tell me, “Sit, stay, wait, heel.” Then I ask the dog to sit and he just looks at me until the owners says, “Oh wait a minute,” and then they bring me over this big bag of cookies. That’s fine if your dog will sit for this, but he or she is not actually capturing the behavior. They’re just doing the desired behavior through a repetition of what they think sit should be.

That’s not actually the case when I train a dog. I want them to actually know the behavior so when I’m far away from the dog, they’ll sit, they’ll lay down, they’ll come, and I don’t need any extra stuff to get that behavior.

Training Your Puppy to Understand Behavior

When we’re talking about food delivery and reward based systems – and this is applicable to the down, the heel, sit, stay, anything – you have to make sure that the dog is actually doing the behavior without that reward, especially in the foundational imprinting stages.

Your dog is a baby, and they’re learning what currency is, they’re learning what work means. A simple test is to go out and ask your dog to sit, and not in the context that you’ve taught them to sit in a training form with food, and then you’ll actually know if the dog knows the command.

Why Bribing Your Puppy with Food is Bad

So when I am walking and I ask Missy to sit, she should sit on my left side right next to me. Then I reward her verbally with a “Yes, good sit. Good girl.”  

Now, when food is introduced Missy’s behavior changes. I begin walking her again, luring her into the position with food, and then I command, “Sit,” removing the food negatively. Missy immediately swings out in front of me, and says, “Well, you’ve got to pay me first.” So clearly this dog was taught how to sit in front of you with a piece of food held up in front of her. That behavior was taught from what we talked about before. That’s really going to be a problem in the future, especially if you do any type of competitive obedience, or just when you’re out for a walk with your dog. You don’t want them to slide in front of you.

How to Use Food to Successfully Train Your Puppy

The key is to periodically reward with food throughout a training session. Sometimes the dog gets the food reward, sometimes he doesn’t. Because you have to make sure that your dog is not really working for the food and is working for you and the food is just extra, but they’re getting the food through you.

A lot of the puppies that I work with are paid through verbal cues. However, one important thing I try to tell my clients is, if your dog is already depending on food or is already working for food in a really enthusiastic way, I do not want to suppress any of that. I encourage people to work with your dog in a very low stress or no stress way. So, if your dog is working for food, or if you continue to work with food, I want to keep the enthusiasm.

So what you want to do is give positive reinforcement with verbal cues and then add in the food as the cherry on top every other time, or every third time or fourth time. This will enforce the behavior, to say hey good job, but making sure that the dog will do it without the currency. Because once they are dependent on the food, you’re actually not teaching the dog anything.

Is Your Puppy Dependent on Food Rewards?

So ask yourself, if you’re working with the trainer or you’re training by yourself, will your dog actually do the behavior if you don’t have the reinforcement involved? If you do not have a treat, will your dog actually listen to your command? If they will, great your dog knows the behavior, and if they won’t, then that means you need to restructure some things.

I hope this video is helpful. If you liked it, be sure to like the video, subscribe to my YouTube channel, or leave a comment, and ask me your dog training questions. Thank you guys so very much. I will talk to you next time. Peace!


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