Skip to main content
Dogs Country Club
site map
email usour twitterour facebook page google plus youtubeinstagram
Training Tips of the Week
Tuesday, June 06 2017


I hear this more often that you think during my classes, workshops and 1-2-1.

Training without food is possible yes,but the precision and the value in training is not going to be the same. Why?
Dogs are predators, the most important resource in their life and the one that they need to survive is FOOD. If you can "pay" them with food you can reward so much more often than using a toy for example.
Toys as substitute of hunting and prey are a great reward as well but not every dog will play in public, not every dog will see the value in a toy when out and about and also with toys you can't reward precision and as often as you would need while training a static behaviour.

Let's start talkig about food first: 
Why is your dog not taking treats and how can we change that?
Some dogs like people, are just not so foody. They need food to survive but nothing more. Sometimes though this is created by a wrong managment since they are small puppies. 

One very important rule is that food shouldn't be available to them all the time. 
If food is available to them they will eat when they are hungry, not when you offer them food. This will of course create and independence of needs, "I eat only when I need to and not when you offer me food". 
Make sure your dog has only one or two meals during the day and if they don't finish all the food after 5 minutes, the food goes away. Also keep a critical eye on your dog, is your dog overweight? If the answer is yes, maybe you are feeding too much and your dog is full and doesn't want to eat more then that so using extra food to train them won't work.

Sometime the quality of the food can create a bad feeling about eating as they don't feel so great after their meal. Make sure you choose an appropriate diet, not too rich in carbohydrates, as they are just there as "filling" and your dog will feel he doesn't need to eat more.

I also suggest you to choose the right moment of the day to train your dogs. Take them out for a walk first, let them exercise and then train them, before they have their meal! 
I always suggest to all puppies owners in my classes, use their food to train them.
If they learn that they eat when they work for at least one meal of the day, training will become much more valueble. 
You need to play a bit of ruff love and teach your older dogs this too. When is time for dinner it's time for training! This way your dog will start seeing value in you and the food linked together.

Keep their portions smaller when you have to feed them in their bowl, make sure they eat and they want more and use the rest during the day for training.

When you go outside, take with you HIGH value treats. 
What is high value for me? Proper food or treats with "real" ingredients. Every time I ask, what have you tried? And the answer is: "EVERYTHING!" I can still find some food they haven't tried, be creative!
Anything with a strong smell will be more desirable to your dogs: fish, tripe, liver, black pudding, cheese (even the stinky one!). You don't have to handle these ingredient fresh, you can bake them into treat, but make sure they stay soft and they keep the smell, don't add too much of other ingredients, too much flour and they loose taste and smell.

Keep it unpredictable, keep changing between treats, make it fun. 

If your dog doesn't take treats in the class or at the park, you are stepping too far too soon. Start using treats just outside of the door. The move it a bit farther away in your road. Then gradually progress to more difficult places. You need to give time to your dog to adjust to different environment, but don't force food on your dog. It needs to be a positive experience.

Something else that can help is doing some "nose games" in the grass. Hiding food for some dogs can be fun, because hunting is involved. Get them use to "hunt" for their treats out and about, that way you will build the value for taking food in different environments.

Sometimes not taking treats is related to stress or hormones, or other reasons that has nothing to do with hunger and food. For that we suggest to talk to your trainer.

What about toys? This a more difficult topic. Some dogs are more oriented on toys then food and that is fine when you have to reward recall or focus games.

If your dog is not interested in toys then you have to think about different things: how many toys are available to your dogs during the day without you being involved? A bit like with food, if they have fun playing by their own when you are not there or if they have more fun playing with toys with another dog in the household, sometimes they don't care about playing with you, they have so much fun without you already!

Choose some special toys that you will keep only when you want to interact with your dogs, a couple of times during the day. Make it a short, quick and fun experience and then the toy needs to go away again, when your dog is still interested! That way you will build your dog value for that toy to come out again.

Toy play , as food, needs to be introduced gradually, from the house to the garden, from the garden to an easy place where your dog can still concentrate on you and not struggling with distractions.

Posted by: Dogs Country Club AT 07:01 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

Post comment
Email Address

(max 750 characters)
* Required Fields
Note: All comments are subject to approval. Your comment will not appear until it has been approved.

    Contact us
    email usour twitterour facebook page google plus youtubeinstagram
    Dogs Country Club
    191 Slag Lane
    Warrington WA3 1BU
    United Kingdom
    Site Powered By
        WebKeeper WebSite Builder
        Online web site design