Originally Posted by GalaxiesKuklos
Using food reinforcement with horses is an excellent method to train horses, or lions, dogs, bears, birds..etc. Goes back to the idea of incompetent people blaming the technique for their own shortcomings. The first thing when using food, is getting respectful behavior around food and then training the animal the safe way to take food. The behavior you describe (looking for food) is called sign tracking and it is a by product of poor training protocols.
I only have experience with dogs and horses and I'm sure as you pointed out have many shortcomings in my techniques as well, every animal teachs me something about myself. Since my horses are pastured along the road and in a area prone to tourists I don't want them in the habit of looking for food from peoples. Even if they are respectful with me an unknowledgable person approaching a herd of horses that knows nothing about them with a handful of treats could get themselves in a great deal of trouble. If they don't understand herd dynamics they could get kicked, run over or bitten. It is the same reason I don't use a treat to catch a horse in a herd situation but if teaching a horse to bow a treat is helpful. I just look on treats as a tool like a leash or a prong collar (or any other collar) for example that people use depending on what you are working on at the time. Sounds like you could be right with my dog about sign tracking as I find if you have a handful of treats she gets over excited and can't concentrate on anything but the treats although she takes them very politely when offered. She trys to do every trick/command she can think of on her own to get you to dispense a treat though. Since I've only had her a short time I have no idea what her past history is with treats but for now I only use treats in certain situations. Sometimes it is all trial and error finding techniques and tools that work and accepting the facts we make mistakes along the way. I'm sure that there are many great trainers that use treats successfully and many that don't which is great that we have options!