Perhaps domestic animals are domestic because they can be conditioned to interact with humans through force/compulsion or by reward-based shaping of behavior, where a wild animal will eventually attack in self-defense a brutish handler. Unfortunately, a lot of wild animals that are conditioned/raised by humans do attack them at some point. They say with the big cats that it isn't a matter of if, but a matter of when. I don't know why anyone would want to train an alligator. Sorry, but that could go seriously wrong. And they just keep on growing. Eventually, they are going to have to kill that gator. And that will just be hard on everyone.
Training an elephant to stand for exam is far different than training a dog to come when called, immediately, regardless of competing motivations.
Elephants trained to work at logging camps and haul trees or knock down trees, etc. are not trained with food. They are pulled from their mothers and clan at a very young age, chained, stuck with pointy sticks, etc. I do not think food alone would work to train these animals. Plus there is the fun of the occasional musth.
I find this argument in support of positive-only food-focused training to show a very poor understanding of companion animal or working animal training.
There is a huge difference between training a crocodile to come when called in a relatively sterile exhibit vs. training a croc to come when called when the crocodile has competing desires, like a beautiful shiela or a tasty pig.
Lions and tigers in circuses were certainly not trained with positive techniques.
I can see the value of food in training, but like any tool, the end goal of training should be to have the animal perform a task reliably without the use of food or any other tool. This doesn't matter much at all for training zoo animals to do tricks or stand for exam.
Reliable training in all situations matters a lot more with a companion animal that goes where the human goes, lives in the house with the humans, and is very much part of the family. Dogs are carnivores, prey drive, and other strong drives come into play that need to be controlled or even eliminated in companion and working dogs, and that is where reward-only training tends to break down.
A great trainer will use both reward and correction based methods and know WHEN to use which method. They will also tailor their training approach for every individual dog, especially with regards to corrections. For some dogs a stern "no" has the same effect as a prong collar on another dog.
If you are working with a killer whale or a sea lion. You are doing trick training, and yes when they do the right thing, you are going to toss them a fish, and they will understand that they did good, and they are much more likely to repeat the trick and get the treat again.
If you perform the same routine, 6 days a week, 50 weeks per year, for a number of years, and you continue to give a fish for every right action, it is no skin off your nose. The animals is doing what you want, and everyone is happy.
What you have to remember is that these are NOT pets. They may spend many hours with trainers, but they do not go everywhere with them, or sleep in their beds. Ok, a lot of dog owners don't allow those things either. But you don't have to walk down the street with your killer whale and expect it not to eat the killer whale your neighbor is walking down the street. You do not have to expect it to watch you eat dinner quietly without making its bid for whatever you are eating.
I personally believe that we can teach a dog how to behave appropriately in ALL situations without using treats at all, and without using prongs or e-collars, or whips or throw chains, or choke chains, or rolled up newspapers. Giving the dog an occasional treat, is like taking the kids for ice cream, it is fun to ask them if they want it, and to watch them get excited, but they do not have to pick up their toys, or stand on their heads and spit nickels. It is an occasional treat.
Using treats to train the dog to do a variety of tricks is fun, and dog and owner can have a good time doing this.
I wish more owners would relax a little about training and socializing the dog by the many methods, and allow their pup to become accustomed to the owner, and build a natural, trusting bond without the owner. Then the training is simple, does not require a lot of corrections, and it is more about shaping behavior and getting the desired response, by communicating with the dog. Living with you, the dog learns what is ok and what is not ok, without dog or owner realizing that they are being trained or training. I think we make it way harder than it has to be most of the time.
I suppose there are some naturals when it comes to dog training, and dogs are just drawn to them, and they don't have to work on a technique. The rest of us have to learn to let the pup come to us, learn to stop trying too hard, learn to get our timing down, learn how to speak the language that each of our dogs understand best. (It's not one language, different dogs respond differently to our levels of praise and correction, but they adjust and we adjust, and it is a compromise.) So, yes, that first dog, and maybe the first few dogs are hard work, because we haven't gotten it down yet. Sometimes we are lucky and have a succession of dogs that really did not require any growth on our part, then we get that one...
We have to remember that this is an animal first. It is an animal that we want to live among humans. It is up to the humans to manage the animal, to develop communication, to produce an environment that the dog is comfortable and safe in. If there is a failure on the dog's part, it is actually a failure on our communication on our management. At those times, when you want to haul off and yank the collar or rub the nose into the carpet, or zap the e-collar, at those times picture your dog being Gentle Ben. Would you yank a prong collar if that was a black bear on the other end of the lead, or use an e-collar, or rub it's nose in the carpet? Probably not. There are better ways to train, and they are highly reliable.
The problem with positive training is the same as the problem with training using punishment/avoidance behaviors to extinguish behavior you don't want, and that is the human on the other end of the lead. Both types of training work when the human is consistent and appropriate in their expectations. Both types of training will fall short of the mark, with a trainer who is inconsistent or inappropriate with their expectations. Even with a dog that has been trained with one method, another person can train that same dog with another method and have good results. All you have to do is be that predictable person that dogs want to follow. Treats are just a bonus if we are in a good mood today. We don't need to throw the dog a fish every time it runs through a tunnel or over a jump for us. We do not have to give the dog a cookie for alerting at the door, or a cookie when he is quiet after we said, "ENOUGH!" We don't have to wear a carpenter's apron with pockets for clicker, penny jar, treats, high value treats, spray bottle, e-collar remote, air horn, tug toy, etc. and etc. Our voice can communicate all of that with the dog, and more reliably that fumbling about for pennies or clicker.
The carpenter's apron made me laugh!I do think many of us make things harder than they need to be.Bonding with and learning how to effectively communicate with your dog as an individual will dictate the most effective way to train.