How to use food in training

The best tool you can use to motivate your dog is food. Dogs can't survive without food – in the wild, they’re foragers and scavengers. Generally, dogs will do most things you ask of them if motivated by the right amount of food.

When training, food can be divided up into three levels - high value, medium value and low value. This is because some dogs need a little bit more incentive than others for learning and motivation.

  • High value food. If you're trying to train your dog to do something new, you’ll need to use high value food. This could hot dog sausages or ham or cheese, perhaps some roast chicken – you can even make your own
  • Medium value food. If you’re finishing off training a behaviour your dog has nearly mastered and you’re in a less distracting environment, you can use medium value food, in the form of shop bought treats – keep an eye on additives, colourings and the amount of sugar or salt
  • Low value food. When your dog has mastered their training and you just want them to keep on top of it, you can use low value food – kibble.  This can be a handful of your dog’s recommended daily allowance if you feed them kibble. If not, you buy it from your local pet store.

Using food in training means your dog will be happy doing their work. They love food so they’re going to have a really happy emotional state throughout their learning.

You might be concerned your dog will only listen to you if you’ve got food in your hand. Don’t worry about this – once your dog is trained, you can start introducing the food every other time and then one in three times. Eventually, they’ll get the idea that doing what you say is good, and rewards come randomly.

If you have any concerns about using food in training or you’re struggling to get your dog motivated by food please contact us for further information.