I take cues from how dogs interact socially with one another.
I have what I call a “naturalistic bias” in training. That is, I don’t use food as a primary training tool for dogs over 7 months old. Though I was originally was trained in food-based training in the 90s, I’ve shifted away from that style of training. The shortest way I often describe why I train this way now is that I look at how dogs interact with other dogs. For example, if your dog ran up into the hills and found a real pack of dogs to live with, they wouldn’t train your dog into the “rules” of their pack by flipping him food treats. They would instead interact socially with your dog to show what they like and don’t like. That being said, I’m not a “never use food in training” sort of trainer either (for example, I use food as a primary training tool with young pups all the time). If food helps in certain situations to get reliable long-term results, then great!
Keeping an experimental mind-set with a focus on results.
To me, dog training is just an ongoing experiment in getting results and my focus is always on what gets clients and their dogs to achieve functional results and ultimately enjoy their lives with each other more.