Are treats a bribe when you train your dog?

This would be a bribe

One of the main reason people resist using treats to train their dog is that they don't want to "bribe" them. This is perfectly understandable; one shouldn't have to bribe a dog to do something. However, if you are using food the right way your are not bribing your dog, you are rewarding her.

Let's take a look in the dictionary (Merriam Webster Online):

bribe: "money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust."

reward: "recompense (to give something to by way of compensation as for a service rendered or damage incurred) "

Clearly, these are two very different words. A bribe influences while a reward compensates. And this difference is exactly how you can tell if you are using treats the right way.

If your dog needs to see the food before she will do something, it's a bribe. And, not to put too fine a point on it, you're doing it wrong. It's an easy mistake to make: in lure/reward training we use the food to get the position or motion we want. But then we "fade the lure" (get the food out of our hands) as fast as possible. If we don't do this, we end up with a "show me the money" dog.

For more on this, check out food critics.

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