They need a reason not to

23 Jan 2022, 7:26 a.m. by Tracey McLennan


One of the many myths I hear about dogs is about food.

“If it’s a serious problem, food is no use. You need to give the dog a reason not to do it.”

The way a reason is given in this scenario is always by doing something that the dog doesn’t like. An ecollar, a prong collar, citronella spray or a low-tech bottle with stones in it. I’ve heard this said about prey drive and about aggression most often as they are the behaviour problems that are generally seen as being hardest to work with.

If people are staying things like that to you, my advice is to ignore them. Lots of people believe that food is no help with serious problems but they are wrong. I started off life with dogs with a male bullmastiff. He had a bit of a prey drive and then in adolescence he became dangerously aggressive toward other dogs. I knew almost nothing about dog training at that time. I didn’t grow up with dogs and although I had been going to training classes, my knowledge and skill level was low. I was dealing with an extremely large dog of a breed famed for not being trainable.

I avoided using any of the “reasons not to do it” that people recommended mostly out of fear to start with. Calgacus was large enough to seriously harm me if he chose and I didn’t want to give him a reason to choose to do that. So I used food – lots of food – and I learned as much as I could. I didn’t know much about dogs or dog training and behaviour to start with – but after a few years I knew loads more.

Calgacus got over his problems. If I could manage that with no skill and with a large, aggressive, hard to train breed of dog, it seems to me that focusing on learning to use food better is the key rather than giving up on it and “giving the dog a reason not to do it.”












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Hi - I'm Tracey

I am the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. I specialise in helping people with dogs who have a high prey drive. I have an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, am a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and an ACE Advanced Tutor. I am currently studying for an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Training.


I love to hear from people who read my blog so if you want to let me know what you thought, email me on tracey@bestdoglearningandstuff.co.uk