FOOD DRIVE AND MOTIVATION
By Pete Eromenok
Food is a great motivator in most dogs. The benefits of using it are known throughout the dog training industry. Dogs love to eat and will devour most anything including plastics, wood and even their own stools and those left by other animals. They can be eating machines and some will guard the most ridiculous items.
We are put off when a dog guards his food or toy because after all they should be grateful that we have provided him with such amenities. Quite often guarding is nurtured by our behavior around that particular dog. Without some type of training or conditioning most dogs will do as they please.
Our behaviors can indicate to the dog that we have a lower ranking within the pack. By pack rules, the most dominant eats first when hungry and the next in line eats second and so on and so forth. Occasionally dogs can be conditioned not to manifest this behavior toward certain people; generally it is the person who walks with confidence and is viewed as the leader. A dog may be perfect in every way including their subordination to the family members, yet they exhibit this one behavior which is so opposite of what they are really like. Some dogs are extremely confident and not willing to share the spoils without a fight and they do not care who it is. Conditioning this behavior out of the dog is very difficult because it is directed at the individual. The dog needs to know what his ranking is, in relationship to each individual person. It is time consuming and not everyone has the temperament to deal with it. There are also many different techniques. Finding the one which works best can be challenging. It is best to start working on this problem the day you notice it; before the dog gains confidence not 6 months or a year later. This behavior only gets worse. It doesn’t go away on its own. How we treat our pets can determine the severity of this behavior. If we appear weak to them in any way it will contribute to this, which leads me to the next subject.
Training with food. This is probably the quickest way to teach dogs how to perform certain behaviors such as sit, down, place, roll over. Using food to lure the dog in position and then giving the food to the dog (satisfying his goal) will quickly cause the dog to put 2 and 2 together. Example: you say “sit”, the dog’s butt touches the ground, food goes in. You say “down”, the dogs lies down and instantly food appears in its mouth. Dogs make associations very quickly.
Soon the dog will be sitting or lying down before you issue a command. When this starts to happen don’t give him any food. If you do then he is starting to learn to control you. After a while, training with food becomes more of a business deal than obedience. The story goes like this: “I will sit if you give me my food.” Or,” I’m sitting, now where is my food? (Bark, bark) NOW, I said”. Sounds like a fair deal right? Wrong. Food is fine for teaching new behaviors because it keeps the dog focused on you and it satisfies his drive to eat what has been offered. After the adolescent dog learns to obey with food as the motivation, he is quickly weaned off of it. A dog should obey just because the boss says to. Because food is a great motivator it can be used to bring a dog’s countenance up. Using a prey item such as a ball is usually preferred if the dog is motivated by it. I would hate to walk around with a pocket full of liver treats all day; however it is an excellent way to begin promoting behaviors. You must realize that too much of a good thing might be bad. Some dogs that continually beg for treats without the proper sequence for receiving the treat can get testy if you don’t give it to them. That’s because they have taught you that when I sit and stare you must give me my treat. They become demanding or commanding and that’s the leader’s role. All dogs are individuals so their responses will be different, but food is a very powerful motivator in most dogs.
Using treats can be a fun and easy way to introduce your dog to new behaviors, but food must be used properly, or over time, it possibly can cause problems.