Dog training tip: training a dog that isn’t food motivated

Dog refusing a treat

This dog-training article about food motivation (see below) was written originally some time ago, and yet trainers still struggle with clients and others that insist their dogs are not food motivated (or worse – using food for training leads to euthanasia – yikes!)

If you are new to training, you might be confused about who’s opinion to listen to. Or maybe you have been taught that training with food is just plain wrong. But before you get started, be open to the fact that we all have an unconscious tendency to look for evidence that supports our beliefs and reject evidence that doesn’t.

In this case, there is so much evidence to support the benefits of training using food.

But it’s pretty safe to agree with the trainer from Paws for Praise, that without nourishment, we die. The search for food is hardwired in our brains, just as the pleasure we get from being satiated by food is as well. So if you think your dog is not motivated, perhaps click through to her article My Dog Isn’t Food Motivated….Really???????? and see what you think:


Years of research on dog aggression and how dogs learn certainly indicate that there are certain circumstances where dogs will not take food.  Sometimes it’s because a dog is highly toy obsessed motivated (like some herding breeds).  But usually when dogs don’t respond to food, it is almost always due to the food choice, the dog being full, or a result of the dog is too close to the thing that has kicked his fight or flight (sympathetic nervous system) response into gear.

If your dog isn’t not responding well to food, it may have more to do with your techniques than how food does not motivate your dog.

In conclusion:

Most dogs prefer food.

But there are reasons why a dog might not take food:

  • Anxiety
  • Taste aversion (dog may not like the taste or be feeling ill)
  • Satiety (feeling full)

What can you do if your dog doesn’t want the food:

  • Move to lower stress situation or environment
  • Try a more delectable foods such as beef, chicken, etc. without any training and see if they like it
  • Change the ratio of food fed for dinner to food used for training (i.e. feed less dinner, feed more during training)
  • See a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist if you dog still is uninterested in food, or continues to be anxious

Other methods to reward dogs

There are other ways to reward dogs, but they are not as quick or as efficient. Some dogs love to play with a toy, chase a ball or play tug-o-war


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