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Rewarding a dog who doesn't like treats, toys?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

  
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Harley Quinn

1229707
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 6:18am PST 
Can anyone suggest a VERY high value treat reward that a dog is unlikely to reject, or alternately a behavioral reward, for a pup who has no interest in treats or toys? I am trying to train our new catahoula x puppy, and the main problem is that nothing motivates her as a reward. I've tried several different high-quality commercial training treats, her own food, etc. as well as toys, but she isn't enthusiastic enough about any of these items to really focus on them attentively. I don't want her to fall behind in her training, but I admittedly have never had a dog who doesn't LOVE treats; our other five dogs will do anything for a tiny tidbit of food! Suggestions greatly appreciated.
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Otis

Champion of- sleeping cutely
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 6:52am PST 
Just a note, my dog doesn't like much of anything when he's sick (he has an autoimmune condition).

But if you can rule out illness, you can try very high value treats (cat food on a wooden spoon, italian sausage, meatballs, hamburger, etc) instead of commercial treats, which used to do nothing for my Oats. If her tummy is still sensitive, boiled chicken is usually a winner and good on the tummy too. He likes commercial treats now since he likes the game of training, but usually only eats them in the context of a training game.

For toys, since she's a puppy, you can try to increase toy drive simply by playing/being crazy. Does she play anything? Does she like to chase? Is she mouthy? If she's any of these things, then you have a good start. If not, then you can still work with it. If she enjoys praise or petting, you can pair that with the other rewards to build them up. I recommend teaching her how to enjoy treats and toys as well as learn to play games just so you have more in your arsenal of how to reward her.

Think of EVERYTHING that she likes--even if it's considered "bad dog" behavior. Try to find a way to reward her with stuff that she likes while keeping her safe.
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Lucille

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 6:57am PST 
Is there any interaction with you that she particularly enjoys? Does she play with you? If so, what games? If she could talk, what do you think she'd say is the funnest thing that you two do together?

I'm asking because if a pup doesn't like to take food during training, toys and movement like a rapid tug game are often used as a reward instead. That specific toy is usually reserved just as a training reward to make it more special. If your dog doesn't find toys enjoyable, then you might need to use something else that's interactive with you.
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MIKA&KAI

Akita Pals- Always.
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 7:01am PST 
Some dogs respond very well with just very enthusiastic praise for good behavior. Also as Otis suggested perhaps small bits of boiled chicken would work. I personally would not give a dog cat food because the needs of dogs and cats are very different and I'm not sure that everything in catfood is harmless to dogs over time so you might want to ask your vet before doing that.wishes on finding what reward is the best motivator for your puppy.
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Otis

Champion of- sleeping cutely
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 7:14am PST 
I meant cat food as a reward. It's extremely high value. Nobody gives treats as if they were meant for the full diet. Commercial pet treats probably have stuff in them that isn't good for dogs either... But cat food on a spoon really jumpstarted Oats enthusiasm and now he has the same enthusiasm when I feed him other treats because he's hooked on training.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that the cat food is wet cat food. I suppose that you can go for wet dog food, but I like the size of the cat food cans.

Edited by author Tue Feb 7, '12 7:21am PST

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MIKA&KAI

Akita Pals- Always.
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 7:53am PST 
Otis,
I'm sorry you were offended by my expressing my opinion. I did say I PERSONALLY would not feed cat food to a dog,without asking a vet first,and I really just wouldn't do it anyway. I also PERSONALLY do not feed my pups commercial dog treats,I make my own in a food dehydrator or the oven. I feel that I am just as entitled to my opinion as you are to yours and feel badly that you took my opinion so personally.
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Zephyr

1213425
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 8:54am PST 
Most puppies don't hit toy as reward status until they're done teething. Tug and some toys just hurt when you're getting new teeth and generally speaking tug isn't a great idea at this point. (Teething occurs from about 4-7 months. A frozen washcloth you don't care about will likely come in handy shortly). I personally prefer toys to food for training (cheaper, more fun for me and less prep work) but puppies can be finicky.

If you want to increase her desire for things I would use her prey drive. Whip little flat toys by her quickly, get a flirt pole or make one since it's easier(not unlike the fishing pole cat toys) but keep the toys soft. End the game when she's still into it, not after she's gotten bored and like Lucille said, reserve that toy for play with you. That toy does not come out unless you are playing with it.

So with puppies, I like human food since it tends to hold their attention better. Canned tuna or chicken based homemade treats can be very high value. Our kryptonite food is Hot dogs. I use standard cheapy massive pack from walmart but better quality beef or turkey work just as well. Take one, cut it up tiny and either microwave it until it's basically dried out on a papertowel (less grease), or feed as is (the latter if you want to build interest). Do keep in mind though that one hotdog can be the equivalent of a cheeseburger, a milkshake and a chocolate bar in terms of fat and calories so super-tiny pieces are likely best. To save on fat I'll usually mix in the hotdog with kibble bits for a dog-trail mix of sorts. Even with that I decrease what I give the dogs for dinner because of the calorie bounce from the food.

If I want perma-focus I use human food. If I'm okay with drifting I can use commercial ones. They really just don't hold her interest like human food.

Also, don't feed her before you train/pick your moment carefully. I'm not saying starve your puppy but if you feel like training, right after breakfast or dinner is probably not the best timing.

I'm against cat food for dogs mainly because our golden got sick (from both ends) after managing to eat small can the cat knocked off the counter. This dog could eat nearly anything but it was the catfood that made him sick, go figure. It's not necessarily bad for them, it's just poorly balanced for dogs and even bad commercial treats at least have the same species in mind. You can replicate the smell and interest with tuna (or other stinky fish) and cheese in some homemade treats (which quite literally take 3 minutes to put together).

Adding: Food can be even trickier than toys at some points. A breeder I know has a female who won't eat anything for a treat but white meat chicken and she'll pick out the pieces from the breast first. Dark meat? Think again. Liver? No. Heart? No. Fish? No. It took her quite a while to figure out what it was the dog wanted.

Edited by author Tue Feb 7, '12 9:03am PST

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Sanka- I'll Miss- You

The ground is my- newspaper.
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 9:00am PST 
Well, there are lots of things to consider first. Where you are training is a biggy. Lots of pups have a difficult time focusing in certain environments. At what moment you're training is also a biggy. Sometimes, a dog is just totally in not the right mood to be training.

You also have a 3 month old pup. Focus is hard to come by at that age, so training needs to be SUPER short.

I would look at all of those angles while trying real meat or cheese as a food reward first.

But, in the end, what does the dog enjoy doing? Going outside? Okay, use that as a reward. Ask for a sit in front of the door and when they give you a sit, open the door and let them out for their reward.

Do they enjoy sniffing a certain area? Ask for a simple behavior, and when they give it to you, let them go sniff. Anything the dog enjoys IS a reward. You can most certainly use it to your advantage. However, given the pup is so young, I don't think the basics (sit, lay down, etc) are really ingrained enough yet.
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Otis

Champion of- sleeping cutely
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 9:28am PST 
@ Mika & Kai

I am not offended at all. I just thought that I should clarify because I thought that I was being confusing or unclear. I also gave another option: Using wet dog food. I used wet cat food because we had wet cat food at the farm and it worked like a charm.

Sorry if you read hostility in my tone. And you are certainly entitled to your opinion.
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Dr. Watson

Not a wiener- dawg!
 
 
Barked: Tue Feb 7, '12 10:48am PST 
If I am correct in understanding that your puppy is only 3 months old, she is too young for much training. You should just be working on her focusing on you, interacting with you. She'll naturally follow you, and you can play hide and seek with her. Bring her into a sit by lifting her food bowl up. Any more formal training can wait til her brain has matured, around 6 months. Socialization is also important now.
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