When a treat is not enough! - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-08-2011, 11:18 PM Thread Starter
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When a treat is not enough!

So the question is this - if you use treats to help train your dog, what do you do when the treat is not enough to get their attentiion or they just refuse it?

I usually use little kibble pieces or Charlie Bear cheese treats and normally these work great.

HOWEVER, sometimes when our 3.5 yo male is really excited he literally just snubs his nose at them and refuses them.

Now don't anyone use the old line (as a bunch of "trainers" in our local obedience club have told me - get a higher value treat) - Doesn't work, as he will and has refused pieces of cheese as well as little hot dog chunks and even little pieces of steak that I used in a test one time.

So any other suggestions when a dog refuses your treats?
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-08-2011, 11:21 PM
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I use a tug or ball on string to build drive, or reward. Mixing up the three...food, tug, ball will keep engagement much better even for older dogs.
My dog really pays attention when I spit cheese(string or cheddar) at him. I hate spitting treats, however....
When I track, I use raw meat for the reward after article indication, and even then it isn't always enough. I think seasoned grilled chicken would do it though.

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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-08-2011, 11:36 PM
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If the environment is so stressful/distracting that they won't take food (or non-food reinforcers) they normally like even ignoring the high-value stuff it's probably time to back off and train in a less stressful environment and build them up to where they will focus on you in the more distracting places.
If they are stressed enough that they aren't accepting food they are probably too stressed to be conducive to learning.

This is a different case/answer than for a dog who just is picky or generally not interested in working for food or a dog who is bored/tired of the reinforcer you are using.


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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-08-2011, 11:38 PM
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I've never done this but I've heard it works. Try training him before mealtime when he's really hungry.
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-09-2011, 12:30 AM
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Whiteshepherds.....that is a very correct & highly successful suggestion.
Many dogs will train better for food, when they have had their meal held back....in other words...hungry.
Not only can you hold a meal back...but make the reward food better than anything that they have had before.
We have used "beef liver" baked till dry.... fried "chicken gizzards".....and even "liver sausage soaked bread pieces"......*they tend to LOVE the liver sausage*.

Codmaster....try this method before you give up...or get frustrated......hunger WILL motivate a dog.......JMO.

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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-09-2011, 03:15 AM
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I do several things:

Deprive them of attention. They are crated or kenneled or generally just have no access to me for attention for at least an hour or two sometimes more (depends on the dog and where they are in training).

Deprive them of food. They get nothing in a bowl for at least 3-4 days, preferably a week though. All food comes in training. Training can include tracking but all food is earned. If they don't want to work that session, they don't eat.

I build up my dogs' desire to work with me. I start this from practically when I get them. I am fun and food. Without me, life for them is Dullsville.

Now, this is not for the dog's entire life. Just while I am building in the desire to work until it is habitual and they work because I ask them to. If they fall off or become satiated, I go right back to the program and the desire to work comes right back.

There is a book called "Ruff Love" by Susan Garrett Ruff Love
You could start there too, if you find you are having difficulty motivating your dog and don't think going to a higher value will work or if your dog is unmotivated (stressed doesn't count!).

Good luck!

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-09-2011, 07:38 AM
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I don't know the whole situation, but all things being equal, a dog refuses food because he's too stressed or excited about something else. I think maybe backing off and working in a less stressful environment and slowly building up to the environment this happened in might help him cope with the added stress / distractions. Again, I don't know the whole situation...
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-09-2011, 08:06 AM
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I think working with less distraction is good with a young dog or puppy....but an older dog should be able to overcome normal everyday distractions.
Excitement and stress are separate issues.....
*IMO....excited dogs shut off.....and stressed dogs shut down.....it is easier to turn an excited dog back on, then it is to turn a stressed dog back up.*
*IMO...it's because the first (can't focus) at the moment....and the latter (is incapable of focusing) at the moment.......
I'm trying to explain....but I don't know if it's coming across properly...??

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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-09-2011, 08:23 AM
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Firstly has your 3.5yo done this his entire life or is this something new? If it's something he's been doing right along somewhere along the line in his foundation training a step was skipped on proofing him with different environments, distractions etc...

If this is the case you would have to take a step back on training and start with less stressful, less distracting situations until he is solid then once again slowly add distractions back into his environment.

All the previous recommendations are great! Especially withholding food etc... I think it's key to finding what they dog likes best, it might not be food but playing tug instead, etc... Also you want to be sure you are the center of his universe not other dogs you own (if any at all) by keeping them separated so they don't look to other beings for entertainment.


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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 06-09-2011, 09:59 AM
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If a dog that is normally responsive to food treats becomes so stimulated or distracted or anxious that he/she refuses the treat, it might be because the competing stimulus is too strong. If so, this would indicate the need to back off and end the training session for the time being. Go back to it when things calm down -- some dogs need a great amount of patience and baby steps to be able to focus on a training session in the presence of distractions. Rushing them actually slows down progress. On the other hand, if your dog is refusing treat rewards of various types on a more regular basis, maybe another type of reward is being called for. My Rottie waits with baited breath for either a treat OR the chance to play tug of war for a few seconds -- she never knows which reward she will get, and it makes things more interesting for her. My GSD is not particularly food motivated: some days yes, other days she could care less what treat is in my hand. She is primarily motivated by her ball or her dumbell: a quick time out to throw the ball for her is much more motivating and rewarding for her than chicken, liver, hot dogs, cheese, etc. Good Luck!

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