Bribe Vs. Incentive

I tend to shy away from using treats with animals.

There are situations where they can be very useful, especially if I have an animal who is very food-focused.

Using treats in your training does not replace your relationship. An animal will not take food if they are having extreme excitement or fear, in which case communication not based on cookies is the the only thing that could work. Treats also can’t be used to get the animal calm, increase their trust, reduce their exuberance or any other major behavior or emotion. They should simply be used as incentive. I prefer to view a treat as a bonus to what they would normally do. Not a bribe.

A reward can come as play, a toy, or a favorite food.

When people use food or toys to bribe their animal, they are luring them to do something against their will. Instead, give them a bonus after they do something. You don’t want them to get bored with how easy it is to get treats from you. (Take a look at my article What We Expect & How We Reward It in this blog’s archive!)

If you’re teaching tricks with treats, their brain switches paths and interrupts the line of thought they had about the trick. When you get back to teaching the trick, they have to remember what it was all about and what they had to do.

That is when play is a great reward. In this scenario, your animal is focused on you the entire time. You are the source of play, and their mind is engaged throughout the session.

So my recommendation for you, is to eventually find yourself not using food bonuses. They can truly be wonderful in the beginning or when working with an unmotivated, food-focused animal as I said before but, your true relationship doesn’t rely on food rewards.

Have fun!

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