Have You Ever Worked With A Dog That Wasn't Food Motivated?

Discussion in 'Training Challenges' started by Gripster, Jul 31, 2012.

  1. Gripster Active Member

    If you've worked with a dog that wasn't food motivated, you know how difficult it is to figure out how to reward and how to associate the reward with the trick.
    Would love to hear how you resolved this training dilemma.:(
    Pawbla likes this.

  2. Dlilly Honored Member

    You can also use praise and toys as a reward!

    I taught my last foster Beagle a bunch of tricks by using the marker word 'yes' and a tug toy. It's the same thing as clicker training with treats, except you use a marker word and toy instead. (You can use a tug toy, a ball, or any other toy your dog loves)

    My dog Delilah prefers her back being scratched over toys or treats. I also use the marker word 'yes' with her, and her reward is praise and attention.
  3. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Yep, Dlilly's right. My previous boy Frankie couldn't have cared less about food, but would have given anything in the world to hear me tell him he was the best boy in the whole world and just loads and loads of praise and pets - so that's what we did. Occasionally he'd take a treat, and I'd always offer, but most of the time, his face lit up like a Christmas tree just for really excited praise.

    Figure out what your dog's biggest paycheck is, and then pay them well. :LOL:
  4. Gripster Active Member

    Thank you!
  5. MaryK Honored Member

    Yes my darling Tiger Lily when she was a young pup became literally paralyzed with fright the moment she step out into the big wide world. She was fine at puppy pre school just getting there was a tad much for her. Neither treats or toys worked then (treats worked inside her own kingdom). The ONLY thing which helped her was for me to pick her up and cuddle her, walk a few more paces, with her in my arms and her bro Zeus trotting alongside, and then set her back down and try again. I had people really getting nasty with me for picking her up, saying among other things (and heavily edited) that you should NEVER pick up a puppy as this only REINFORCED their fear. Upshot was, I ignored them as I 'knew' the ONLY thing which made Tiger Lily want to over come her fear of the big world was Mom's cuddles.

    It worked and well before she was too big for me to easily pick up, she was fine and completely over came her fears. But :LOL: despite being a lassie who loved her food, a cuddle was ALWAYS HER GREATEST TREAT:D
  6. TiflovesBCs Experienced Member

    Bella is very nervous out the house so isn't interested in food but she loves her toys when we go to a park so thats her reward then. I also use praise and a bit of fuss she loves having the base of her tail scratched.
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  7. Dogster Honored Member

    I agree with everything mentioned above!!!(y)

    Yes, I think toys would make a GREAT reward, usually JRTs are crazy for toys:D
  8. Pawbla Experienced Member

    Yeah... but usually dogs who are not food motivated, are toy motivated.

    Winston is moderately food motivated and somewhat toy motivated. Usually, when I'm outside with distractions, I resort to the simplest thing: play chase. For some reason he likes playing chase with me just like he'd play with a dog. So I chase him a bit and then call him over, reward with food or toy and lot of praise, ask him for a trick, and back to chase.

    There is always something!
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  9. Pawtential Unleashed Experienced Member

    It depends on what you are trying to teach. For tricks like Beg, Roll Over etc, play, praise or touch are great options. Many agility and flyball people train with tug - and most JRT LOVE it!

    For general obedience training - something else to consider, that I use everyday, are life rewards.

    Want to go out? - Sit + Look = Door opens
    Want dinner? - Sit + Look + Wait = Yummy meal

    Here are a few articles that may help:


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  10. Dice Smith Well-Known Member

    My aussie Kodi loves to choose his rewards. Some days he wants to work for treats and will nudge the treat bag to let me know that's what he wants. Other days he'll ignore the treats and bring me a toy and urge me to play a game with him. (y) And some days he'll just wiggle his little butt and beg for praise. I try to set certain toys aside that Kodi loves a lot and only use those for training to. It makes him go crazy! He'll do anything to get those toys! And I also use life rewards to like Pawtential Unleashed mentioned. I actually like that Kodi prefers toys to treats because it's cheaper for me lol :ROFLMAO: The possibilities are endless! Just listen to your dog and he'll let you know what he wants to work for! :D
    Dogster, MaryK, Pawbla and 2 others like this.
  11. fickla Experienced Member

    I have worked with several dogs who have had low food motivation so here is what has helped:

    1. Decrease weight to get them to a nice "sports" weight. Even if the dog isn't considered fat by most people, there's a good chance they could still lose a few pounds and this can help increase that food motivation. At the very minimum make sure they're not free fed.

    2. Use their meals to train. Not just have them sit or down and then give them the whole bowl, but actually train kibble by kibble. Of course in the beginning you want to keep sessions VERY short, so maybe only 5 kibbles and then give them the rest.

    This has been huge in helping. I never met a dog that didn't get somewhat excited when they see their food dish, even if they don't always finish all the food (and are still at a nice thin weight). That excitement over the food DISH can transfer into excitement for training, especially if you keep the sessions short. Even my toller who's medications mess with his food drive big time and I can sometimes struggle to keep weight on him, he gets excited for the dish. Actually eating what's inside can be a different story :)

    3. Competition. With the least food motivated dog I trained, I used my own dogs to increase excitement. I did 30sec of training with Mrs. Non foody, switched to another dog. And repeated that. Anytime the non-foody dog wandered away I let them and just switched dogs. Even if I didn't have another dog to switch with, if a dog wanders away I don't try and get them back. I might however limit their option for other activities by putting them in a kennel, or back inside the house, or just tethered a bit. It's not a time out, there is no anger involved, the dog just doesn't get to wander around the yard sniffing.

    4. Other rewards. Toys are the easy one, but usually if the dog isn't very food motivated they don't care much for toys either. So I use sniffing as a reward a lot. Little tag your it games are also fun for a lot of dogs.
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  12. jackienmutts Honored Member

    Hey fickla, long time no see, nice to see you back! :D
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  13. Gripster Active Member

    This is a great thread, not only for all the thoughtful responses to the question, but even for dogs that are food motivated -- changing up the reward is probably a good way to keep the enthusiasm alive throughout the training session. Loved all the positive, and thoughtful suggestions for solution.
    I liked the reminder to keep the dog in fit condition as maybe first and foremost for a non-food motivated dog. And it's my experience too, now that fickla pointed it out - that almost every dog gets excited when their food bowl appears - so using their daily rations was a great thought.
    I do have to let you know, that it isn't my JRT that I asked the question for -- it's a friend's papillion. And it's interesting that this little papillion supports fickla's experience, as he is also not particularly toy motivated.
    I would never have thought of the 'chase' game -- every dogs favorite game. Thanks to Pabla for that. A wonderful idea not just for the non-food motivated dog, but for my Charlie too. Play is a terrific reward for him - I just never know if he really associates it with the last correct behavior -- but 'oh well'. We're having FUN!
    And I applaud Mary K for doing what she instinctively knew would help Tiger Lily even though there were many critics ready to tell her 'how wrong she was'. GOOD FOR YOU Mary K!!
    The links are very much appreciated.
    Have I told you all how much I APPRECIATE your collective experience and gentle wisdom!!
    This is the best Forum ever!!!! All because of the folks contributing to it.
    MaryK, Pawbla and Dogster like this.
  14. MaryK Honored Member

    Thank you Gripster, also should add her brother Zeus also helped, he was and still is 'bomb proof':D I firmly believe you have to understand YOUR dog and go with what works - ignore all the naysayers completely and my darling proved ME right:D
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  15. huntyr Well-Known Member

    Gripster, I dont know if you realize that Huntyr is neither treat or toy motivated.
    Although that is changing somewhat since we have started trick training.
    I have cut WAY back on his dog food, so hunger makes him a bit more treat motivated.
    Since the little stubborn butthead will not take a treat if he doesnt want to do what I am asking. I can offer him the BEST treat in the world but if he doesnt want to do what I am asking he will simply turn his nose up at it.
    He is an idependent little wigglebutt... but I love the guy and he loves me....
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  16. Gripster Active Member

    Huntyr is my best bud -- and yes, he is also a little wigglebutt! But a very smartr wigglebutt -- he can read!!
    MaryK likes this.
  17. MaryK Honored Member

    Huntyr is one very smart little wiggblebutt, that's for sure:D(y) He's amazing to know so much and yet not be treat or toy orientated. I'm sure being your best bud is why he's so smart:D
  18. huntyr Well-Known Member

    it can be very aggravating to say the least. He learns and learns fast but getting him to do it when he has decided its not the time, its frustrating. I have had four trainers who all stated .. "no problem" we will change that.....

    you wanna be the fifth???

    MaryK likes this.
  19. MaryK Honored Member

    LOL he's a JRT, they're very much their own self:D do it in their time, not yours:D Ra Kismet learns very quickly too (except shy) but he'll still get the 'mule look' occasionally:rolleyes:

    Wouldn't mind the challenge:D I love JRT's they're such cheeky, feisty little dogs:love: But wouldn't utter the words 'no problem' that's foolhardy with a JRT:LOL:
    Dogster likes this.
  20. luckylego Experienced Member

    We faced this problem when my dad's Great Dane (Donner) was still a pup.. To this day he is neither food, toy or attention motivated - I kid you not. At least when it comes to anyone BUT my dad. He's a great boy.. One of the softest dogs I've met, and so sweet, but he's just never really been much of an eater (at almost 2 he's still a strawny boy who's bored with food), and as much as he likes his toys, they don't particularily motivate him to do anything. The one thing that DOES motivate him though is praise from my dad.. During one of his puppy classes my older sister had to sub in for my dad as his handler and an hour later even the trainer gave up. And again, its not even like he's giving attitude.. He's just a big daddy's boy apparently :S

    But if anything, that's proof that what the above said is right.. There's alwaaays something, you might just not have thought of it yet :)
    MaryK likes this.

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