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Maximizing Training Results: Harnessing the Power of Food in Dog Training

Food is a great tool to motivate dogs and can serve as reinforcement for behaviors that you like to see. The problem though is that many people say that their dog isn’t motivated by food. Or at least in certain scenarios, their dog has no desire to eat food.

For starters, not all food is equal. Certain types of food are more like $1 whereas others are more like $100. How motivated would you be if a $1 was being offered versus a $100? If you had millions of dollars in the bank, would you be motivated to work for $1 or even $100? Likely not.

If food were money, meats and cheeses would likely be $100 bills and many store bought treats, vegetables and kibble would all be $1 bills. How much we’re getting paid matters to us, and matters for your dog too.

If dogs have food available all the time, it will drastically decrease their motivation for it, especially when a lot of other stuff is going on. If you’re out and about with your dog and your dog is paying attention to everything else and will not respond to you, it’s as if those distractions (or competing motivators as I like to call them) are actually the $ in the scenario.

The first thing you’ll want to do is get your dog on a food schedule. Provide their meals for 10 minutes and then remove it. You’ll notice that your dog will start to eat it when it’s available when this pattern is followed. The second thing is you’ll need to stop giving $100 bills for free. Those need to be saved for when you’re in an environment where money is floating in the wind. (Meaning, distractions are plentiful.)

If you’re being careful about saving the high value stuff for more challenging distractions and you’re still not seeing results, it’s likely that your dog is stressed about something and that stress is decreasing your dog’s desire for food. This could be the fact that you’re at a brand new place and there is so much to investigate or it could be that something scary just appeared and is way too close. If it’s the former, allow your dog to sniff around for 10-15 minutes before asking for any behavior. And if it’s the latter, increase distance to get farther away from your dog’s stress threshold.

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