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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys,

I'm curious on how to improve food drive. I'm trying the "marker" method of training, so I follow YES! followed by a food kibble. I can tell he really has no interest in the food kibbles. I'm not sure if he's not hungry enough for the food, if he just doesn't like the food (Victor adult. same thing the breeder was feeding him). It's as if the reward isn't good enough. He'll eat it if I give it to him, but if I move my hand left/right and do like a about to run away move, he has no interest in following the food.

We haven't had him a while, so I'm just doing real basic "sit" commands etc. Nothing crazy. Also trying to figure him out. He's coming up on 8 months.

He eats about 4-5 cups a day, so in the mornings I feed him 1 cup instead of 2 so he's a little hungry and has to work for the food. I'm thinking skipping breakfast all together so he has to work for kibbles. When training is over I can feed him his 1 cup.

Let me know if you guys have suggestions for me to get him more excited about food. I feel he just doesn't have a high food drive, OR he's still too new to the house (had him for 5 days now) and just doesn't feel 100% comfortable. Thanks
 

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I’ve been lucky to never have a dog of my own have little desire for food, but I have also always made them work for ALL of their food when they are young. If you have any interest in tracking, laying footstep tracks with food is a great way to make them work for food. It can get a little tedious to go through 2 cups of kibble doing just obedience (though I have certainly done that in the past). Crate games are another great way to make him work for food AND defelop a love for his crate. I wouldn’t feed him from a bowl at all right now, if your desire is to increase the food drive. Genetics do play a part in this, which could be part of the issue. Also, he could just need more time to adjust to his new life. You could see his actual drives kick in when he feels more comfortable in his new surroundings. I would just skip bowl feeding and make him work for everything. He’ll get it eventually! ;)
 

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Use a toy. Mine will work for a while for pieces of meat or cheese, but nothing works as well as a special toy. I have a tug I only use for training.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Use a toy. Mine will work for a while for pieces of meat or cheese, but nothing works as well as a special toy. I have a tug I only use for training.
Like you mean put food in a toy? I got a kong and I put his kibbles in it. Still very interest. I pretty much have to roll it for him to have food fall out, or his paw accidently hits it LOL

I’ve been lucky to never have a dog of my own have little desire for food, but I have also always made them work for ALL of their food when they are young. If you have any interest in tracking, laying footstep tracks with food is a great way to make them work for food. It can get a little tedious to go through 2 cups of kibble doing just obedience (though I have certainly done that in the past). Crate games are another great way to make him work for food AND defelop a love for his crate. I wouldn’t feed him from a bowl at all right now, if your desire is to increase the food drive. Genetics do play a part in this, which could be part of the issue. Also, he could just need more time to adjust to his new life. You could see his actual drives kick in when he feels more comfortable in his new surroundings. I would just skip bowl feeding and make him work for everything. He’ll get it eventually! ;)
Gotcha. He is just so playful outside that makes me feel he's already warmed up... but honestly, what do I know. I have nothing else to compare to LOL

I got him one of those bowls with spirals in it, so he doesn't inhale his food, but at this point, I'm ok if he does LOL.

the xlarge kongs take about 1/2 a cup of food, so it's alot of kong/kibble training to feed him all 5 cups of his food LOL.

any suggestions for that? Maybe he gets his last 2 cups at night and rest he has to work for it? My other concern is, what if he doesn't want the food that bad, and instead of his recc. intake at 5 cups, he only ends up eating 2 or 3 cups?
 

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5 cups sounds like a lot of kibble to me (I might be wrong). I'd probably be feeding 3 or tops 4 cups a day. Maybe that is why he isn't interested in the treats.
 

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At his age, I would not be terribly concerned if he skips a meal here and there. It’s better, in my opinion, to get him used to actually working for food so that the food becomes valuable. Don’t cater to what HE wants. Have him do what YOU want.

If, after a reasonable amount of time of trying to making him work for his food, he STILL doesn’t want to eat, then you may need to make some changes. But if you cater to his proclivities too much, he’s going to become picky with food and run the show.
 

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No, I use a tug toy as a reward after an exercise is finished. During the exercise, I use verbal praise. For early training, like teaching Sit, I used food. I found other trainers and methods I like better, but for Sit, I used only this video. My dog is not food motivated when he is in drive but as a puppy, when he was hungry, plain kibble worked. As he got older, it did not work at all. He learned Sit from this exercise, but he never learned to stay in an Xpen. As soon as he could lift it up or push it across the room, he did.

 

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@LuvShepherds - I prefer to move on to rewarding with a toy, as well. But I do think it’s beneficial to try to increase food drive, if possible. Food drive is a great tool to have when teaching things like tracking or scent work. And it’s helpful to have a dog that actively wants to eat their food with no coaxing.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
5 cups sounds like a lot of kibble to me (I might be wrong). I'd probably be feeding 3 or tops 4 cups a day. Maybe that is why he isn't interested in the treats.
That's what the vet recommended. his rough daily calorie burnt is around 1800. each cup is about 400.
 

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At his age, I would not be terribly concerned if he skips a meal here and there. It’s better, in my opinion, to get him used to actually working for food so that the food becomes valuable. Don’t cater to what HE wants. Have him do what YOU want.

If, after a reasonable amount of time of trying to making him work for his food, he STILL doesn’t want to eat, then you may need to make some changes. But if you cater to his proclivities too much, he’s going to become picky with food and run the show.
kinda how i run the show w my kids lol. if you don't eat your food... fine. you'll eat when you're hungry. lmao
 

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Kibble is boring. Change to food. Use Red Barn. Or Fresh Pet. Whether you use a toy or food depends on the dog. I've seen dogs with so much toy drive they can't think. And vice versa. But in your case, I would try a higher value food. Red Barn and fresh pet are complete foods so you can replace a meal with them
 

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Ah. I think I've just never had a dog who wasn't a bit obsessed with food so that was my only thought. The others are right he might just need time to settle in. Also I'd double check he isn't foraging, though there would probably be other signs of that.

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I think he doesn't understand the game as well. He has no idea he's supposed to chase the food. You need to teach him that.
 

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My dogs are kind of food-obsessed. Well, actually, the one who is food-obsessed, got the other one more interested in his food. Before I got Levi, Asher would skip an occasional meal. I would leave the food out for 15-20 minutes, and if he didn't eat it, I would put it away. Now, I have the opposite problem. Levi eats like a maniac, and Asher copies him. I worry that they're eating too fast and will bloat. I had to get them a special dish to slow them down.

For training, have you tried using treats with more value than kibble? When I'm training my dogs something new, I give them small pieces of chicken, cheese, hot dogs, or liver-flavored treats from the pet-store (don't remember the brand). If they get a lot of treats, or seem to be putting on weight, I just give them a little less kibble at meal times. Our trainer recommended that we bring at least two different kinds of high-value treats to class and to skip (or cut down) on our dog's evening meal to increase their motivation (our classes met in the evening after dinner).
 

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If you want him to work for his regular kibble, I guess I would start this way: Hand feed him all his meals for a week or so. Do not ask much of him. You are still bonding and need more time to bond. Sitting on the floor with him and just feeding will be a great way to bond. Then start luring a sit or down with the food. Still hand feeding. How I started my Gunny when I got him as a very young pup. And start in the morning when he will be hungriest. Give yourself about a set time, like 15 minutes to work with him..if he doesn't want to, I would use your negative marker like "nope" and show him the food bowl, and put it up. I start that way, but mine are spoiled. The harder the task they are learning, the more inviting the food reward. But my Dutch Shepherd will work as hard for her Native Kibble as she will cooked chicken.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Kibble is boring. Change to food. Use Red Barn. Or Fresh Pet. Whether you use a toy or food depends on the dog. I've seen dogs with so much toy drive they can't think. And vice versa. But in your case, I would try a higher value food. Red Barn and fresh pet are complete foods so you can replace a meal with them
Do you mean as training food? or you mean change his diet to this instead of kibble?
 

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I can’t count on one hand how many times in 5yrs I’ve had to use “high value” with Keystone... he goes nuts when training with his regular kibble (regardless of type)... even after meal times. I understand this is seemingly rare for a gsd and consider myself extremely fortunate.

That said... these are some things I have done early in his training. He came home to me about the same age as Chase.
- withhold breakfast
- food games (chase the kibble in my hand, toss a kibble away from me and feed upon return)
- start with very low criteria to build lots of success
- high rates of reinforcements and “jackpots”
- use an active body and excited tone
- multiple short sessions ending in a break off with a toy

All of that said, yes, genetics plays a part. You can do things to increase his food motivation but he’ll still have a genetic limit.

My older dog was not trained with food and although he enjoys it, I do tend to pick up sample bags of high end kennel and make him a mixed bag for training.

Last but not least, have you properly “loaded” your marker? (No behavior expectation, just pairing the food with the marker). It’s likely the most important piece. Personally, I prefer using a clicker and during the loading session I average about 25-30 kibbles in a minute, just to give you an idea.
 

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Do you mean as training food? or you mean change his diet to this instead of kibble?

Just for training :)

I use Fresh Pet for tracking and obedience. Mine can't seem to tolerate any food rolls. I think it's the salt in them. I've used baked and dried liver with no problem. Cheese. But I prefer a soft, complete, food that can replace all or a portion of a meal.

And play games with him to get him to push into your hand, chase the food, throw the food to get him to go out and then come back. Part of the training is teaching him to engage with you. Look online for videos, or pay per view videos from trainers.
 

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His kibble is like oatmeal, nourishing and tastes pretty good but why would he do anything special for oatmeal if he wasn’t famished?

I know I wouldn’t. Find his equivalent of a Klondike Bar or skip meals and make him work for it.

I’ve never heard of anything other than that and I’ve researched it a fair bit as my girl is picky.

ETA: I’m assuming this is a genetic low food drive dog, if not he may need more time to adjust

ETA2: I use string cheese (doesn’t always work) and freeze dried liver (Usually does the trick). Sometimes though none of it works and i have to motivate her with toys and praise. It’s just what she enjoys. Makes sense to me, even though it’s super annoying.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I can’t count on one hand how many times in 5yrs I’ve had to use “high value” with Keystone... he goes nuts when training with his regular kibble (regardless of type)... even after meal times. I understand this is seemingly rare for a gsd and consider myself extremely fortunate.

That said... these are some things I have done early in his training. He came home to me about the same age as Chase.
- withhold breakfast
- food games (chase the kibble in my hand, toss a kibble away from me and feed upon return)
- start with very low criteria to build lots of success
- high rates of reinforcements and “jackpots”
- use an active body and excited tone
- multiple short sessions ending in a break off with a toy

All of that said, yes, genetics plays a part. You can do things to increase his food motivation but he’ll still have a genetic limit.

My older dog was not trained with food and although he enjoys it, I do tend to pick up sample bags of high end kennel and make him a mixed bag for training.

Last but not least, have you properly “loaded” your marker? (No behavior expectation, just pairing the food with the marker). It’s likely the most important piece. Personally, I prefer using a clicker and during the loading session I average about 25-30 kibbles in a minute, just to give you an idea.
Thanks! I'll try those. I also gotta convince the wife too. She thinks it's not right for him to work this hard for his food LOL.

at first I did sit (he already kinda/sorta knows it) with "YES" followed by me reaching in my pocket to get food (about 2 second pause for bridging). He wasn't really getting it, so I reverted to just him walking with me on a leash and when he wasn't sniffing around, or doing anything except walking, I'd say YES and give him a kibble. This way he didn't really have to do anything except understand YES meant a kibble is coming. But because he's not excited about it, he wouldn't really come or be excited.

I didn't want to do a clicker because I might not always have access to a clicker. I almost got one, but I can't always have one... so still on the fence about it.
 
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