"my Dog Isn't Food Motivated"... Really?

Discussion in 'General Dog Training' started by sara, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. sara Moderator

  2. MaryK Honored Member

    Great article! Thank you for the share Sara(y):)

    Anxiety is the cause, I had one dog, Tiger Lily who was very food orientated but for a while as puppy outside her own home she wouldn't take treats at all. It was completely due to her anxiety of the 'great big world out there'. Once over that, she was as happy as a lark to accept food, either as a treat or a meal when we went away.

    Had I used the 'not food orientated' or similar excuse she probably wouldn't have ended up being a champion at a young age in her agility classes.
  3. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Thank you for introducing us to this blog. I agree with the writer on all points, but I have to say the post is still a bit disingenuous in my eyes. Of course dogs have to eat, and therefore are motivated to eat food to survive! but when people say "my dog isn't food motivated" regarding training, they usually mean that they can't readily use food during training. This may be because the only food that motivates the dog cannot be consumed in amounts needed for reinforcement reps (due to the type of food, the health of the dog, or the size of the dog), or the situation in which you want to do your training makes food a very low value reward, or very hard to use.

    I'm of two minds in terms of using the dog's meal as training. I think that a minority of dogs 'eat to live' rather than 'live to eat' so purposefully waiting until they are more desperate for food is a little murky IMO. I don't like the idea of keeping the dog hungry until she's so hungry she'll work for kibble, if she'd never work for kibble otherwise. Now that I have a smaller dog (14 kg/30 lb), I do sometimes use his wee cup of kibbles for training sessions, and I (obviously) don't have a problem with that. He's very food motivated and will work hard for just his kibbles. I wouldn't like to use his whole meal for counterconditioning, however, because I think it kind of stinks if you only get to eat when you're in view of something scary.

    I also think some dogs benefit (emotionally or mentally) from having the safety of a routine which includes a bowl of food set down at the same general time, once or twice a day. I think that feeding the dog's meals through training 70-100% of the time leads to a dog who feels she's got to be 'on' all the time, alert to see if there is something she can do to get her meal.
    MaryK likes this.
  4. jackienmutts Honored Member

    It's a great article, Sara - thanks for posting. And - A & C, I see your point also. I did actually have one of those dogs who did just eat to live. Many years ago, I picked up a stray pregnant female who delivered a litter of pups in my bathroom and I kept two, so I knew the whole history. One was a great eater, and the other was always on his own schedule - and basically ate every couple days his whole life. Sometimes a few days in a row, then he'd skip a couple days, no matter what was offered. :confused: I basically just used praise (ranging from a simple yes! to a pet to a hug to a party) for training him, cuz he never turned that down! :D I have seen so many times tho, people offering their dogs yucky hard packaged treats or only kibble and the dog either not or under-performing, saying their dog just isn't motivated. Well, duh! Up the ante to some chicken, hot dogs, cheese, etc, and BAM!, different dog. Again tho - I do withhold judgement (until one tries) cuz I know what my boy turned down ... and that encompassed basically everything. Including dinner. :rolleyes:
    MaryK likes this.
  5. Dogster Honored Member

    Great read!!!!(y)
    MaryK likes this.
  6. 648117 Honored Member

    I have the same problem with my dog, she is only 6kg so she doesn't need much food but is extremely food motivated. She only gets 3/4 cup of kibble a day and that gets split into two meals.
    She would probably happily go through all of her kibble in one training session if I let her (she can focus for a very long time if their is food involved, I have always had to end training sessions way before she is sick of training because the food runs out) but she would also be very anoyed if I made her miss her breakfast so we could use all the kibble for training and I feel bad if I use all of her dinner training her during the day so she always gets some dinner but sometimes it is very small. And like you said, it is part of her routine to have breakfast and dinner (even if some days it's a little smaller than usual).

    So basically I have a dog that is extremely food motivated but training is limited by her small size when it comes to food.

    I'm trying to increase her toy motivation but I don't think it will ever being as motivating as food is for Holly.
    MaryK likes this.
  7. Adrianna & Calvin Experienced Member

    Hi 648117,

    I started using cereal for Calvin, specifically plain Cheerios (ok, store brand! He can't tell the difference!) and Kix. They are both very low calorie and easy to eat, and we can get a lot more training in without packing on pounds.
    MaryK likes this.
  8. Pawbla Experienced Member

    I'll have to partially disagree. When somebody uses the phrase "not food motivated" it means that they don't have a particular drive for food. Many dogs prefer other kind of rewards. Toys, playtime, going outside, etc.
    Also, lots of people love to eat, but that doesn't mean a few (including my ex-boyfriend) get no pleasure from ingesting food, except when they're in the mood. It's sort of linked to chronic depression, I think? Same goes for dogs. Some are just not really motivated by it, either because they are fed high quality food so treats are like... meh, or some other reason.
    MaryK and Adrianna & Calvin like this.

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