Archive for the ‘Training’ Category

My Dog Isn’t Motivated By Food

Monday, October 19th, 2009
As a trainer that uses food to reinforce good behaviour from dogs I am often deal with clients who insist that their dog is not ‘food motivated’. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“Oh my dog isn’t food motivated”
“Wow, you mean he doesn’t eat? Have you seen a vet?”
“Oh no, I mean he eats at home from his bowl but when I’m training him he won’t take food”
“Oh so he’s not motivated to work for the food then, that’s a whole different ball game!”
All dogs are motivated by food, if they weren’t they’d be dead! Upon inspection the supposedly ‘non food motivated’ dog is often quite curvaceous. Usually the ‘non food motivated’ dog has convinced his human that he needs to live on a diet consisting of delicacies such as roast chicken, fillet steak (preferably with gravy) and/or anything humans eat.  Dutifully the human prepares something different when he turns his nose up at the latest offering. This is a finicky dog, a dog that has learned to manipulate humans into giving him the good stuff. This is quite different to being not motivated by food.
If your dog refuses a perfectly yummy treat there could be a number of reasons why. Some of the reasons your dog may not appear to be motivated by food are:
Illness: Like humans, when dogs are ill they will often lose their appetite.
Free Feeding (i.e. leaving food out for the dog to graze on): If you left me a constant supply of money why would I go to work?  If your dog has access to food virtually anytime he wants why would he work for it?
Stress: Often stressed dogs will refuse food. Some dogs become quite stressed around other dogs and groups classes may not be ideal for them. Try private lessons initially.
Taste preferences: I hate seafood, some people think I’m crazy. Just because you think your dog should like what you have on offer, doesn’t mean he actually does.
Satiation: If your dog is already full then of course he won’t be motivated to work for more. Who is motivated by food after Christmas dinner?
Competing motivations: Some dogs appear to prefer ball or other dogs to food. This is only because they know you’re going to feed them that evening. Try putting them on a learn to earn program and watch their motivations change!

As a trainer that uses food to reinforce good behaviour from dogs I often deal with clients who insist that their dog is not ‘food motivated’. The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Oh my dog isn’t food motivated”

“Wow, you mean he doesn’t eat? Have you seen a vet?”

“Oh no, I mean he eats at home from his bowl but when I’m training him he won’t take food”

“Oh! So he’s not motivated to work for the food then, that’s a whole different ball game!”

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