Do Dogs REALLY Prefer Praise Over Food?

Remember all the news reports a few months back about how MRI studies of dogs’ brains have now proven that dogs prefer their owners over food?

Here’s a screen shot of just a few of the articles headlining this claim.


The original research paper was:
Cook, P.F., Prichard, A., Spivak, M. & Berns, G.S. 2016.  “Awake canine fMRI predicts dogs’ preference for praise vs food. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience”

We reviewed this paper in a detailed webinar for Behavior Education Network members back in September.  And guess what?  The research results did NOT show what these news reports claimed they did.

The study was a complicated one, and it required quite a bit of explanation of the methods, analyses, and results.  Here’s a slide from our webinar analysis:


Because the use of food rewards is still not fully accepted, these claims caused either angst or rejoicing in the dog training community.  Those who are skeptical about the use of food rejoiced, believing their approach that “the dog should work for YOU/praise, not food” had been validated.  Others who consistently use food in training were worried that more owners would resist incorporating treats into training as a result of this study.

Bottom line is – you CANNOT rely on social media or reports from news writers to know whether or not headlines screaming “new study finds” are supported by research.  You need to be able to read the research and ask questions!

Were the scientific methods sound?
Were the statistical analyses appropriate?
Could the conclusions be supported by the data?

But it’s hard to access much less interpret research!

That’s why we do it for you, every month in Behavior Education Network.   Those questions are ones we answer in our science reviews before we decide whether the latest “science says” claim is something worth sharing or getting behind.

This month, November 2016, our science article analysis is “How do dogs respond to social conflicts with people?“. It’s a review of “Behavioural responses of dogs to dog-human social conflict situations” by Kuhne, F. that recently appeared in Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

We have over 70 reviews of scientific articles in BEN. We challenge you to find that ANYWHERE ELSE on the web outside of maybe a college course on a university website.  And it’s unlikely even then you’d find that many in a one semester course.  So if you are really serious about bringing science to your training or behavior services, BEN is the place to be.

Click HERE to join us and get on the advanced track to putting more science into helping pets and people and growing your business.


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