The food reward is often at the heart of conversations when it comes to training a dog! For most pups, a simple treat will be enough to motivate them to learn. But what to do when your own dog doesn’t like treats?
My puppy won’t eat treats, Why?
Just as in humans, a canine can be so stressed that it is impossible for him to eat. A dog under stress is not able to eat, because in order to do so, he has to feel comfortable in his own environment.
Signs of stress include:
- Excessive salivation
- Acting aggressively
- Making repetitive movements
- Not wanting to eat
- Hiding or always trying to hide
For your pet to accept a treat, it is therefore necessary to assess his comfort zone.
This is determined by your dog, depending on how close he is to what is frightening or stressful to him (it could be another animal, a human, a car, a noise, etc.). His brain then locks on to what he perceives as threatening.
So, It’s your job to keep him away from this stress and take him to his comfort zone, where he will be relaxed.
The further you move away from the stressing agent for your dog, the more you’ll get into his comfort zone. You will then be able to watch him relax and act normally again. At this point you can offer him a treat again.
Beware, if the stress is chronic, it can be bad or even dangerous for your canine’s health. It will then be necessary to seek professional help to determine if a medical treatment is necessary.
Moreover, it is not only stress that comes into play, but a whole range of emotions. Excitement and anxiety can also cause a dog to refuse food.
A medical condition
Your dog may also have an underlying medical condition and only a veterinarian will be able to assess his condition. This is often seen in dogs who usually like treats but stop accepting them overnight. If this is the case, other symptoms such as vomiting, fever or diarrhea may be present.
Sometimes, your hound may simply have an eating disorder that can be related to:
- Hormones (example: when in heat)
- Fear. If it’s a puppy, it may be afraid to taste new things because it’s not used to it.
- The presence of other animals
It is therefore necessary to identify the root of the problem before looking for other causes.
The treats aren’t tasty enough
Maybe your pet just doesn’t like what you’re giving him. To find out if he really likes his treats, you can take several treats and put each one on the floor. If your canine is greedy, he will certainly eat them all! But, if he likes a certain type, he’ll take longer to choose!
Furthermore, if you give them every day without a specific context, your pup won’t be interested in them on the day you really need them.
How to Choose the Right Dog Treats?
Top quality treats will have the following traits:
- They are convenient; Their size is small and they don’t stick to your fingers.
- They are dry and don’t have an unpleasant smell.
- They keep very well, even when the package is opened. This avoids throwing away a packet that has already been opened several days before. Usually it’s not the case with non-dehydrated products.
- They are palatable to dogs.
- They should be adapted to the age or weight of your dog.
Remember: the treats must be adapted to your canine. The best thing is to make him choose the ones he prefers. They should not be given in an abusive way. Finally, if despite all this advice your hound still doesn’t want them, you should try different ways to motivate him.
How to train a dog that isn’t food motivated?
Serving sweets to your pup is a very effective technique for congratulating and encouraging good behaviors. However, there are other rewards besides this one to positively reinforce good habits.
Moreover, a treat can be an inappropriate reward for the education of certain dogs, such as ones who show very little interest in food, very anxious pups who will, in fact, have no appetite, as well as sensitive hounds, who only tolerate their daily portion of kibbles.
Rewarding a canine means giving him access to what he wants or likes. It is a very important notion to integrate in order to understand how your hound works and therefore to offer him appropriate and effective rewards.
The first thing is to find THE reward that your pet will enjoy the most! And yes, sometimes you think you’re rewarding him, but in reality, he doesn’t perceive it as such at all. Hence the importance of knowing your pet and knowing how to observe his attitudes in order to be able to decipher them.
This approach is essential to adapt to the true nature of your canine, to offer him a reward that he will appreciate and above all to strengthen your relationship and the mutual respect you have for each other.
Never forget that if you make sure that you meet his needs, if you offer him a safe and soothing environment and if you are consistent in your attitude towards him, then he will be much more attentive to you and behavioral problems will only be distant memories and your relationship will only be more harmonious and balanced.
You can offer your pup a pat on the head to reward him, indeed, such small act can have tremendous effects even if your dog won’t train with treats.
On the other hand, make sure that the pat is really a reward that is perceived positively by him.
In fact, if he doesn’t like to be petted, the fact that you offer him a pat as a follow-up to a desired behavior could send an inconsistent message and this would result in him no longer reproducing this behavior out of “fear” of being petted.
That’s why it’s so important to know your pet and to observe and “read” his attitudes.
However, if he lowers his head, turns away or yawns every time when you caress him, then, it is necessary to think of changing rewards because this one does not put your mutt in a state of well-being, on the contrary!
Furthermore, for him, the association of pats with something positive depends on several things: the context in which the patting is proposed, the place where he received it, the way it is done as well as the person who is patting him.
Playing can be a good way to reward your dog for a behavior he has adopted and that you wanted. We still have to find the right game, because, no, throwing a ball to your dog for 15 minutes is not a smart game.
It is true that we are often tempted by this type of games because we have the impression that our puppy really enjoys it. However, throwing games strengthen the chasing instinct of dogs, especially hunting dogs, and have no other interest than physical exertion. What about intellectual stimulation in all this? Might as well join the useful to the pleasant, right?
In fact, games that encourage your hound’s self-control and allow him to channel his energy will be more suitable. You can do this by throwing a ball, but ask him not to move while you throw it and then tell him to go and fetch it only when you ask him to. You can also play traction games using a knotted rope, for example by teaching him to let go on command, etc.
The main thing is not to get the dog too excited, especially if you are in the middle of a training session where his concentration is essential and necessary for good learning. The game can therefore be used at the end of the session for example.
Using Your voice
We all have our verbal habits to express our satisfaction or dissatisfaction. And often, we repeat the same things so often that our pet ends up not paying much attention to them anymore.
In fact, it’s very important to adjust your tone, you shouldn’t be afraid to sound ridiculous when speaking to your dog in order to get the right message across.
This is especially true when you begin the teaching. In the long run, a simple “good boy!” will do the trick.
On the other hand, if your pooch adopts the behavior you want for the first time, we will exaggerate the famous “good boy!”, even if it means accompanying it with a stronger reinforcer such as patting or a game, as explained above.
To put it plainly, it is important that your animal correctly integrates your tones, and to do so, they must be quite distinct.
However, for some pups, too much verbal reward will tend to excite them or even signal the end of the exercise. In fact, just like playing, you will observe your pup’s attitudes, then you will adapt to what suits him and proceed in such a way that his concentration is maximal.
The simple act of getting something
This is perhaps the most important notion here in terms of education. Rewarding a hound is above all allowing him to get something he likes or desires. In fact, if he loves to go outside, he will only be offered a walk after a desired behavior. Your furry-friend will then understand that this attitude is the right one to get what he wants, which is to go for a walk.
This is often a learning defect of many owners: the dog barks because he wants to get out, so you open the door for him. What does he learn then? That it’s enough to bark to get out, that this behavior leads to something he wants. Whereas if we wait until the dog is calm to open the door for him, then he will understand that it is the fact of being calm that allows him to get what he desires rather than barking.
We must therefore always be very careful not to validate, consciously or not, bad behaviors that our puppies adopt because they are intelligent and they understand very quickly how we function as owners.
Remember that it is always more interesting and effective to privilege motivation and encouragement over inhibition and punishment. And you have seen here that motivation and encouragement are not only through the use of treats.