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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Really good article on dogs who won’t work for food.
I feel like I have posted it before (gotta love failing memory), but I’ve seen a couple posts that make me think it would be helpful to post it again :)

LIFE AS A HUMAN
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Ken Ramirez and Suzan Garrett are also good sources of info on this
Susan has a great blog post on how to get your dog who is not food motivated to be more food motivated.
Conditioning. Its all about conditioning. :)

Grow the Value | Susan Garrett's Dog Training Blog

Ken Ramirez is always a huge hit at Clicker Expo :)

You don’t alway need nor want a dog to work for food, but to me, if the dog won’t work for food at least in some instances, there’s something wrong.
 

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I suppose it still depends on the dog, the environment, the treat that is on offer, etc as to why a dog may not be motivated by food.

I have a very food orientated dog which makes life alot easier when training outside & on walks. Toby has stopped mid chase of rabbits if I have had liver cake on me!

Roxy, on the other hand is just not very interested in food when out, although at home she is. I have tried nurmerous types of treats, missed one of her meals & taken the food out to use instead, etc but at times, she is just not interested (not every time but the majority). Other times she has taken the reward & then spat it out (these are things that she loves at home). With her it is toys that are her main motivators & not food at all.

I have never 'fooled' either of the dogs with the promise of a reward & then not delivered & I use a variety of treats for them. Maybe I am just an incompetent trainer!
 
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
LOL I’m definitely an incompetent trainer :) Nobody is perfect! But I strive to look at how I can improve. I see my dog get frustrated when I’m not clear with signals, when I up criteria too quickly, when I withhold a click too soon in an attempt to increase the intensity of a behavior...
I can definitely see that leading to him making negative associations with training sessions.
I also have a dog who will probably never reliably take food when I need him to. He was truly abused at the hands of humans and taking food when he is in an unfamiliar place is just too much for him. Maybe he will overcome it one day, maybe not.

The beauty of training in a clickery way though, (not necessarily with a clicker) is that it forces you to be much more observant of your dog and his body language, and to notice when things start going downhill and change and adapt the training as needed.
 

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I'll just sit over here on the incompetent bench then since I've had a dog who wasn't food motivated. He spent the first several years I had him hovering around 10kg underweight because he was so unmotivated by food that he ate roughly twice a week and even those weren't full meals.
 

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LOL I'm definitely an incompetent trainer :) Nobody is perfect! But I strive to look at how I can improve. I see my dog get frustrated when I'm not clear with signals, when I up criteria too quickly, when I withhold a click too soon in an attempt to increase the intensity of a behavior...
I can definitely see that leading to him making negative associations with training sessions.
I also have a dog who will probably never reliably take food when I need him to. He was truly abused at the hands of humans and taking food when he is in an unfamiliar place is just too much for him. Maybe he will overcome it one day, maybe not.

The beauty of training in a clickery way though, (not necessarily with a clicker) is that it forces you to be much more observant of your dog and his body language, and to notice when things start going downhill and change and adapt the training as needed.
This is exactly what I have become so aware of, even more so in the past few months. I have now been on a few training days (as a spectator) so could really concentrate on the handlers with their dogs & it was so obvious being in this position to see when the dogs (& the owners) were becoming frustrated & losing motivation. I have now really tried to make sure I don't fall in to this (as I know I have done this in past & probably will do again!) & try to be clear in what I am asking & stop before the dogs start to lose interest or are struggling as I am moving too quickly

I mainly do clicker training at home when we have minimal distractions & I use food for this which Roxy is receptive to - she just not interested when we are out. I'm not sure why, it's not even that she is distracted as she can (now) concentrate & we have been doing alot of training when out on walks. I've also been doing some tracking with her recently & her motivation is for her toy at the end. I intially tried with food but she just wasn't that bothered. As soon as I swapped to a tennis ball she became interested.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I'll just sit over here on the incompetent bench then since I've had a dog who wasn't food motivated. He spent the first several years I had him hovering around 10kg underweight because he was so unmotivated by food that he ate roughly twice a week and even those weren't full meals.
This is a dog you got as a rescue yes? This is exactly the point the article is trying to make. At some point in his life, humans did something to him that conditioned him against food. It is not an innate trait in dogs that they reject food. Can you create a dog who won’t work for food? Oh yes, absolutely! But if you can condition a dog to NOT want food, conversely you “should” be able to condition him TO want food. I’m not that good with my rescue case, but I’m sure there is someone out there who is that good and could get my boy eating out of his hand (literally) :)
 

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I'll just sit over here on the incompetent bench then since I've had a dog who wasn't food motivated. He spent the first several years I had him hovering around 10kg underweight because he was so unmotivated by food that he ate roughly twice a week and even those weren't full meals.
Roxy was also very underweight when we first got her which made me think she would be very food orientated but was also the complete oppositte.

She was picky with her food & didn't really enjoy eating at all. It's partly why I made the switch to raw & it was then that her appetite increased & she really started to eat all her meals. She loves her food now & I am glad but I wouldn't say it is her main motivator, unlike Toby who literally would do ANYTHING for a bit of hotdog :D
 

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Horace will work for food at home and in the garden but take him further than that and he simply loses all interest. Certain foods make his eyes light up when he sees them (at home/garden) but outside he either won't take any notice or will accept it but spit it out!

A lady in the park was treating all the dogs and when it came to horace he took it but promptly spat it back out! Slighty embarrasing!

I don't think it's fair to say that all dogs who refuse to work for food have some issue with owner/trainer or have been tricked too many times etc. I'm sure some do but some do not.

I have never nor would I ever trick Horace in that way but it seems that when the enviroment changes he simply doesn't have the interest anymore, so I think that it all depends on the factors present in any given situation.

If there are no distractions outside Horace is more than happy to work for praise alone but distractions = distracted doggy and we are working on that!
 

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This is a dog you got as a rescue yes? This is exactly the point the article is trying to make. At some point in his life, humans did something to him that conditioned him against food. It is not an innate trait in dogs that they reject food. Can you create a dog who won’t work for food? Oh yes, absolutely! But if you can condition a dog to NOT want food, conversely you “should” be able to condition him TO want food. I’m not that good with my rescue case, but I’m sure there is someone out there who is that good and could get my boy eating out of his hand (literally) :)
Yeah, he was a rescue. I always figured something awful had happened to him around food but I have no idea what and he never got over it. He'd actually recoil in horror if offered something a lot of the time.

The whole flippant "you're just not doing it right" attitude I got from trainers drove me absolutely nuts. The ones that actually met him just labelled him untrainable in the end coz they couldn't get him to respond to anything either. I'm sure there are people out there who could have turned him around but I wasn't one of them.
 

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Roxy was also very underweight when we first got her which made me think she would be very food orientated but was also the complete oppositte.

She was picky with her food & didn't really enjoy eating at all. It's partly why I made the switch to raw & it was then that her appetite increased & she really started to eat all her meals. She loves her food now & I am glad but I wouldn't say it is her main motivator, unlike Toby who literally would do ANYTHING for a bit of hotdog :D
Rupert was better on raw but still not great. No chance he'd take it outdoors and the slightest thing would stop him eating even indoors. Spencer on the other hand REALLY likes his food and is easy to train with it.
 

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Sophie isnt food motivated at all, you could put a roast on the floor with the trimmings and she wouldnt bat an eye.

Ive tried different treats, clicker training, and toys and nothing works for her.

Shell spit the treat out, shell ignore it/me, shell walk off.

Ill hate it when we go to training and she wont do tricks!

What I find does work for Sophie is praise verbal and physical. Also the fact she is a velcro dog I know she wont go far from my side.
 
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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Yeah, he was a rescue. I always figured something awful had happened to him around food but I have no idea what and he never got over it. He'd actually recoil in horror if offered something a lot of the time.

The whole flippant "you're just not doing it right" attitude I got from trainers drove me absolutely nuts. The ones that actually met him just labelled him untrainable in the end coz they couldn't get him to respond to anything either. I'm sure there are people out there who could have turned him around but I wasn't one of them.
I don’t know exactly what happened to Lunar, but I have my suspicions. We know from x-rays that he has been shot at least twice, and we know from animal control that they had a really hard time catching him - he escaped several traps they set (baited with food of course).
It makes perfect sense to me that a dog who was baited in to a live trap with food would have food issues. He was also a really aggressive food guarder. Like climb up the assess-a-hand and go for the human on the other end. I don’t know for sure, but I would bet good money that someone beat him over food guarding at some point in his life. I’d also bet Lunar told them where they could take that beating and that’s how he ended up dumped at a local park or shot, who knows... I just know he’s not one to suffer fools and I can see him standing up to a heavy hand.

So yeah, a dog who will attack you over food he has yet will not take offered food. Sounds completely contradictory, but if you think about it, makes total sense. He doesn’t trust humans around food.

Sadly there are trainers who throw up their hands and don’t know what to do with a dog who won’t take food when too distracted. Or worse who turn to escape/avoidance techniques because the dog “won’t work for food”. Which is really too bad.

Plenty of dogs won’t take food if they’re doing a “job”. A herding dog isn’t going to race away from the sheep to get a food reward, a pointer isn’t going to be interested in a hot dog while on point, nor would you want them to be.

So for a dog to ignore food when he’s engrossed in something else makes perfect sense. For a dog to take treats at home but completely ignore them once out and about with different sights, sounds, and smells is perfectly normal. That’s what environmental rewards are for. Hello premack! :) And if you want to, you can STILL grow the value of the offered food as explained in the Susan Garrett blog I posted above.
 
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