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5 reasons why your dog may not take treats in training
Posted on 27th Sept 2022
One of the things I hear often is "my dog is not really treat motivated". It always make me ask more questions as it is not usual for dogs to turn away the offer of something tasty.
When I investigate further, I can usually find a reason. Here are the most common:-
Underlying gut issues
Dogs with less than optimal digestive health may not want treats as they may upset their digestion and cause tummy pains, diarrheoa or discomfort. If your dog is not eating well or has runny poos, the chances of them wanting food is low and you may see them turn their nose up at treats.
The link between gut health and brain health is real so dogs with poor gut health are less likely to want to take part in training as well.
The treats are poisoned
This is a strange one so I will explain. Dogs make associations. We all do. Sometimes, we use treats to get a dog to do something we want them to do that is not very nice or even painful for them.
Examples would be - tempting them with a treat, then picking them up or restraining them - think dog catcher! Offering a treat and doing something that hurts like putting ear drops in or brushing out a mat in the fur. Using a treat to get them in the car where they are sick or feel sick.
We can "poison" treats with the anticipation of what comes next.
The "value" is too low
Some dogs will eat anything but others will have a hierarchy of what is a low value treat and what is high value. Tastes may change on different days or your dog may always have a favourite.
Kibble may be enough at home but out and about you will need to up the value and use better treats. Human food is always better than shop boughts packets.
We add "pressure"
Have you ever had someone shove something at you that you don't want to eat. I would be like this with cockles or mussels - eegh!
When we are training and our dog doesn't do something we ask, we can be guilty of "pressurising" with food to het them to do it. We pass this off as luring but luring is a gentle invitation rather than a forceful "eat this".
Next time, invite your dog to take the food and avoid pushing it towards their face. See if this makes a difference.
The environment is too hard
I hate heights and crowded places. A busy disco with lights, noise and people would be my idea of hell.
I love sweets. Too much.
But pair the two together and I wouldn't want the sweets.
This is because my senses are overwhelmed by the environment. Too exicting or too scary, even slightly worrying and your dogs desire to eat treats will lessen.
If the environment is too much, treats will lose their value over either the need to be safe or a competing reward such as another dog or chasing a rabbit. You will notice this as your dog will start snatching or taking a treat, then spitting it out or not eating it completely.
Change the environment and build slowly to more difficult places.
For some fun, and to se what your dog does love and where they will want to take treats, try our treat tournament and tell us what you find.