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Leerburg Dog Training Blog

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.

The best source for dog training news, tricks and treats, right from world class leaders in dog training.


Sometimes I forget that we often have new dog trainers (who just got their first dog)  that come to our web site and are not aware of the information we offer in our training videos.

Today Cindy got an email from a gentlemen who has his first dog. He wanted to train his dog using his dogs favorite toy rather than food.

She explained that he can do what he wants with his dog but almost always it’s a better idea to start training with food (a reward high value food – not Wall Mart dog biscuits). There are many reasons for this.

1- Most puppies have high food drive than toy drive. This often changes after the puppy goes thru teething

2- The problem with using a toy on a new dog is you are faced with several problems. You can only reward the dog one time (which is when you give the toy) where as with food you can give the dog a number of different food rewards while training the same behavior (some call this jack potting).

3- When a toy is used the training needs to be interrupted while you get the toy back from the dog. If the dog has not been trained to bring the toy back to the handler this creates a problem. If the dog doesn’t want to give up the toy that creates a second problem.

Having to chase the dog down and then have a little argument with him about giving up the toy is not going to make the dog enjoy his training session, which is what our ultimate goal is. We want our dogs to look forward to training, thats not going to happen is you have to have a mini argument over toys.

So we tell new trainers to learn marker training by using food. Once thats done, and the dog understands Markers, the trainer can focus on teaching THE RULES OF PLAY, which are:

1- Play when I ask you to play

2- Out the toy when I ask you to OUT THE TOY

3- Bring the TOY BACK after I release or toss the toy

Once our dogs understands these rules a toy is a very effective tool. We teach these rules when we train the dog to play tug.

If you are new to Leerburg I would recommend that you read the article I wrote titles THE POWER OF TRAINING DOGS WITH MARKERS.

If you want to learn how to train using a toy reward I would recommend the training video we did with Michael Ellis titled THE POWER OF PLAYING TUG WITH YOUR DOG.

If you have questions feel free to write Cindy. There is a LINK on the front page of our web site titles ASK CINDY.

Bottom line is if you want to make training fun for you and your dog it’s worth taking the time it takes do do it right and make that your primary goal.

Ed Frawley

20% off Select Sport Puppy DVDs, streams, and courses good through Thursday, August 20, 2020 at 11:59 PM CT