But My Dog is Not a Food Slut 


When I was a rookie trainer I quickly realized that not all dogs read the piles of books written about them.  Ellie, my bloodhound rescue didn’t eat food; she inhaled it. Seriously. There was no chewing involved. One of the solutions I found in a training book was a special bowl that had raised portions in it. The idea behind this is that the dog has to work around the raised portion which in turn slows down their eating. I bought a nice new special bowl for Ellie.

I was excited to see how great this bowl would work. I filled it with her measured food serving and placed it on the floor. Ellie made two attempts to eat her food and then stopped and looked at the bowl for a few seconds. I watched the wheels turn. She then took her paw on the ledge of the bowl and flipped it. The food went everywhere on the floor and she then ate at her typical speed. I said, “Well, you didn’t read that training manual, huh, Ellie?”

Majority of the positive dog training books recommend food as a reinforcer (reward). And it makes sense for most dogs. You do something great and you get paid with a yummy dog cookie. But not all dogs read this training manual. There are a small percentage of dogs that enjoy other things more than food. My own dog Miss Belle is one of them. When I train dogs that love food (food slut) I can quickly get a behavior. When a dog turns up his nose at me then it’s time for me to go to the drawing board.

First things first, maybe he is a food slut and you didn’t know it.

First, make sure that your dog is actually hungry going into training sessions. If you just ate supper and I tried to offer you the most delicious serving of chicken or sweet potatoes, even if they were the best in the world, you wouldn’t want it because you have no appetite.

Another thing to consider is your dog’s diet. I have found dogs on a poor kibble or a diet that is not ideal for that particular dog it causes an upset stomach. These dogs won’t eat during a training session and for good reason.

Did you make it worth his time? So I have to admit, I was vegan for three years and last summer started eating meat again. I was craving beef and when I say that I was craving it, I was at a ridiculous level. I was at the point that I was annoying my friends with talking about beef like a girl with a crazed boy crush. I did not want any kind of beef though. If you would have offered me ground beef I would have turned my nose up with a kind “no thank you.” But for a steak, even today I may sit through a boring date. So here’s a secret, find the right food that motivates your dog. Many dogs, even some hounds known for their love of food, need something worth their time. A trainer friend of mine used deer hide for a bloodhound in her group obedience class because that was the only food that worked well. I have even used liver with a dog in the past (eww, but the dog loved it).

Okay, for the true food hater.

Guess what? You have homework! You must become a student of your dog. Try a lot of things to figure out what he likes.

Reinforcers (rewards):
squeaky toys
tennis ball/fetch
movement (like a toy on a rope your dog can run after)/chase
running after things in environment like leaves
attention from others or you

You more than likely will use a variety of things listed above during a training session. Whatever you decide to use as a reinforcer you don’t want the reinoforcer to take more than a few seconds to “deliver.” For example, releasing your dog to go swim in a pond would not be a great reinforcer when you are trying to teach a new behavior. You want to be able to do several repetitions within a session.

Get the behavior you want –> say “good” –> quickly use the reinforcer listed above

Example with fetch as a reward:
Boy “sit”–> “Good!” –>“Go get it!” Throw the ball (reinforcer)
He brings it back. Repeat.

Example:

So whether your dog is food hater or a secret food slut, there is always something that will motivate him, it’s only a matter of finding what’s worth his time. Ladies and gentlemen, time to think outside the bag of treats!

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Blog written by Michelle Huntting

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