My dog does not like treats and is unmotivated by food, what can I do?" A question I hear way too often. Especially as it pertains to training your dog. In this article I will shed some light on the topic. First and foremost, you must need to understand the difference between "treats" and "food". For me, a treat is something my dog gets for no particular reason. And normally my working dogs, or dogs in training, do not get many "treats.' Food, on the other hand, is a resource for survival. In animal training, FOOD, is normally used as a motivator. Food is also as a lure, although there are many ways to shape behaviors. Lets break it down. If your dog does not take treats, yes it is possible the dog could be trained or taught to learn certain behaviors using a toy. But what if your dog does not like a toy? What are you left with? Normally you are left with the option of coercion. The definition of coercion is "The practice or persuading someone of something to do something by force". Can that work? Yes, to a point, but you risk damaging the integrity of behavior. So back to food or treats. When people tell me that their dog does not like treats, normally by them saying "treats", it is apparent that they do not know how food works, or have exhausted the situation. Think about it. Your dog may not be taking treats, but it is still alive so it must be eating food, correct? Now I am fully aware that some dogs have more food drive than others. And there are multiple factors that can cause a dog to not take food during training. Here are a few:
1) The dog is a bit nervous
2) The dog is fat and overweight
3) The dog is free fed at home, over fed, and does not view food as a necessity
4) The dog has never been taught work ethic
5) The dog is being trained in an environment that is distracting and above its pay-grade
Here are a few tips that can get your dog normally working in a few days relatively consistently. For FOOD! Not treats!
1) Do not feed your dog for 1 day from a bowl. Period. Nothing. It will be fine trust me!!! Even us humans can go a day without eating. And honestly, most of us should! I understand people have an emotional attachment with feeding their dogs, but to change the dogs behavior you must first change YOURS!
2) Try a higher value food reward. Cut up meat of any kind (hot dogs, chicken, steak). If your dog is vegan, feel free to stop reading now!
3) Replace your dogs daily rations with the food you prepared for training. Use that. If they only take a few pieces of food, thats fine, end the session. Try again later. Remember they do not need as much food as we tend to feed them!
4) Keep sessions short. 1-2 minutes per session is perfect to jump start them.
5) Train in a distraction free environment. And try to train at the same time each day. Predictability will get you far! Train on the dogs agenda!
95% of the time we are the cause that dogs do not take food in training. Remember, to change a dogs behavior you must first change yours!!!
So, put up your dogs bowl of food today and get ready for training tomorrow! I hope this article sheds some light on the topic. And as always, HAPPY TRAINING!!!!