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i want to teach my dog things like drop it and leave it but he really doesnt care about treats at all, never known a dog like him just isnt bothered by food
his favourite toy is a ball on string, but im not sure how to incorporate that into his training

do i give it to him or throw it for him, how long does he get it for? these sort of things i cant find out about
 

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If your dog isn't caring for the treats he isn't hungry enough. Try not feeding him a meal and using that measured amount of kibble for training. Get him hungry enough....then try working with him.
How old is your puppy?
 

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He has just turned a year, he has some of the basics but I want to put him to work now properly

When I say he isn't interested in food, if he doesn't want to eat he has sometimes gone for 2 days or so without interest or if I give him something really tasty

He's very healthy and fit and very spoilt, which I'm beginning to think may be part of the problem, the vet said he will be harder to train as he was hand reared from birth as his mother was hit by a car and passed
 

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Have you tried yummier treats? Cheese, chicken, hot dogs?

If those aren't tasty enough for him, then use toys instead of treats.

For drop it, give his a toy and use his ball on the string as the reward for dropping the other toy. The reward can be a couple of seconds of play with the other toy.

Leave it is the same way. Hold his toy and tell him leave it. When he relaxes and stops trying to get at the toy then his reward is a some play time with the toy (or another toy).
 

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I would say use the ball the same was as you would a treat. You'll have to go a little longer in between trys probably, but it works the same. Does it well--reward with a tug session, get the toy from him (you can use two of the same toy for this so he'll give it up), and do it over.
 

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I would say use the ball the same was as you would a treat. You'll have to go a little longer in between trys probably, but it works the same. Does it well--reward with a tug session, get the toy from him (you can use two of the same toy for this so he'll give it up), and do it over.
Yes, this is exactly it.

All dogs are different. Some dogs just don’t respond to food. I have one of those in my house. :)

Basically what you are going to do is use the toy to motivate your dog. You’ll want to use what they call “motivational” training, not “reward” training. In your case, the ball is a toy you know your dog likes so I would use that.

I assume your dog plays catch.

Start with playing catch. Holding the ball in one hand, don’t hide it from the dog. Let him/her know you have it. Ask him to sit. He sits, you’ll throw the ball. When he brings the ball back, make him drop/release the ball so you can throw again. I make Dalton put the ball in my open hand (just hate the dog slobber mixed with dirt :tongue:). You don’t have to make him sit each time before throwing the ball. At first, I only throw the ball a few times. Maybe 3-4 times. When the dog listens to me, I throw the ball. When he doesn’t, I just stand there and wait. In the beginning I try to keep it short sessions.

Praising him when he plays a good game is also important. If he sits nice and drops the ball when asked – praise. When he gets these 2 steps and starts sitting faster and dropping the ball faster you can add in additional steps. Like down, stay, come, heel, etc. Start the play sessions somewhat short and build up to longer sessions. When he listens he gets to play :doggieplayball:
 

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My dogs didn't care for most treats either...not hotdogs or even chicken but they did take to little smokies and they love the home made beef crunchies.
 

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Masi is much more motivated by a toy (frisbee/tuggy) than food. She'd pick the toy over the treat any day, (and believe me I've used some YUMMY stuff, but she just prefers her toys).

I am in agreement to use that ball on a string as a reward,,I'd tease him with it, get him revved up for WANTING THAT BALL,,give him a command as in "sit", he sits,,throw the toy,,that kind of thing..
 

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Stark is not toy or food motivated at all... sucks for training.

What I find works well for him is engagement. What I mean by this is pushing him back, letting him jump on me, running from him, jumping at him and just "wrestling" with him for lack of better words.

He really craves the interaction and it seems to work.
 

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Victor is not food motivated at all. I don't train with treats anyway. It might take a little longer to learn training but I want them to do the commands to please me not to get a treat. My male dog was kept treat hungry by the training facility he came from but I kept up his training by his tennis ball. He will do anything for his tennis ball. My little one will do her training with any she is playing with a the time.
 

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Kokoda isn't food motivated at all either. I use her chuckit balls - it takes longer to fine tune things (exact positioning, etc), but the basics come quickly. She will do anything for her ball, and it actually holds her focus for longer, I can get her to do a much longer series of behaviors for one chuck of the ball, when I would have to use a bunch of treats.
 

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I don't train with treats anyway. It might take a little longer to learn training but I want them to do the commands to please me not to get a treat.
Um, that's really not how using treats to train works, and no, you don't need to have treats with you forever for the dog to comply with commands either. :)
 

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Um, that's really not how using treats to train works, and no, you don't need to have treats with you forever for the dog to comply with commands either. :)

The reason I said this was because my male was underweight when I got him. He came from a training facility that fed a poor diet and kept their dogs hungry on purpose. They underfed him to keep him hungry so he would be super obedient so they could sell him easier. These guys are in it for a profit. We had to put about 15 lbs on him when we got him home. He would scarf down treats or anything. He ate like a horse when we got him home and always looking for more. He was afraid of a water hose because they sprayed him down everyday in his kennel. He had sores,flaky skin and grooming issues. We were newbies at the GSD so we did not know a lot about them we assumed he was healthy. That is why I like to teach without treats. These issues with him is how I found this site. I know there are trainers and people out there that do use treats for training the right way but it was different in our case. After all these are people who told me to beat him and put him to sleep when I called asking for some advice on him. I am not meaning any of this to be rude or to be preceived as rude. I just wanted to give some back story on him.
 

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I'm surprised to hear about all these dogs who aren't motivated by food. In 10 or so years of teaching classes, I have only run across two dogs who truly had extremely low food drive. One was a Sammy/Chow mix and the other was a Shar Pei. The Sammy/Chow was free fed and lived with "grandma" who would cook all sorts of things for her every day though, so I suspect her issue was more learned than anything. All of the other dogs who's owners said they "didn't like food" did fine with the right treats and/or some minor adjustments to their environment.

The biggest thing that hurts food drive is free feeding (leaving food out for prolonged periods of time). Free feeding also seems to create poor feeders. Beyond that people sometimes unintentionally encourage dogs to be picky about their rewards by teaching the dog if he holds out you'll keep offering something better and better. In a way this can devalue food as a reward, much the same way as free feeding does.

Certainly dogs all have a lot of difference in their levels of food, toys and
prey drive. But you can always improve on what you have.

Providing the always eats his meal well. The first thing I would do
would be to start using his meals for all of his training instead of feeding him out of a dish. This sort of thing can encourage dogs to value food a lot more by having to work for it. If you sometimes can't use it all for training some days, it's ok to give him a lighter meal from time to time. If you can't use it all most days, give him the last of it in a food puzzle toy so he still has to "work" for it.

Keep sessions very short at first - have him work for 5-10 rewards (1-3 pieces of kibble would equal a reward) at a time but aim for lots of these very quick sessions every day. Sessions like this are very easy to work into any routine.


If the dog doesn't eat his meal well, your first question should be if his food may be making him feel icky. Sometimes dogs who don't eat well are trying to tell us their food doesn't agree with them. Imagine if your meals every day were always the same thing and always gave your bad stomach cramps or even just made you feel general malaise. This sometimes is the case with dogs. I know a dog who was a bad eater his whole life, despite the owner trying multiple different kibbles. He also had some skin, allergy and immune issues (hypothyroid). For 10+ years he ate just what he had to and didn't like treats much either. Then when he was 11, the owner tried feeding him a diet of just green tripe and what a difference! He now is eager about his meals, eats everything and likes treats. He has also improved some healthwise. Likely he had a food intolerance that didn't cause some of the more noticeable issues like loose stool but made him feel poorly. I had a dog myself that was a picky eater, also a dog with allergies until I put him on raw food.

If you don't believe the dog's food isn't agreeing with him, your first step in increasing your dog's food drive (and making your life easier) is to teach your dog to eat. This article outlines what to do pretty well: TeachEat

Well meaning owners very often teach their dog to be weird about food. The dog doesn't eat a meal or two or doesn't eat well so the owner worries and starts adding "extras" to make the food more appealing. The dog may eat better for a bit then go back to eating poorly again. The owner then adds more stuff and tries to encourage the dog to eat with handfeeding. This starts a bad cycle of the dog holding out for more but worse, it adds a lot of stress to the mealtimes. I have seen dogs who actually became afraid of their bowl because of how much anxiety the owner would develop around dinner time. No doubt the dog didn't want to eat - the dog didn't even want to be near the kitchen when the dinner time ritual started. There was nothing wrong with the dog, other than having owners who worried a bit too much about why the dog would sometimes choose not to eat all of his dinner. And the dog was able to be "rehabbed" into a normal eater, once the owners were "rehabbed" into acting normal about feeding the dog ;)
 

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There is nothing wrong with using toys to train dogs. It is a bit harder to do but I know a lot of people who use toys (a ball or a tug) to train, myself included. Every dog is different. Not ALL training has to be done using food/treats.

This member did not ask how to train their dog using food/treats. They asked;

i want to teach my dog things like drop it and leave it but he really doesnt care about treats at all, never known a dog like him just isnt bothered by food
his favourite toy is a ball on string, but im not sure how to incorporate that into his training

do i give it to him or throw it for him, how long does he get it for? these sort of things i cant find out about
So maybe (if you know) we can offer advice on how to help this member train a "drop it" or "leave it" command using the dog's favorite toy. A ball on a string.
 

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PS. I actually prefer training with toys now that I have used this method with Dalton. In my experience, some dogs are motivated by play far better than by food PLUS play holds their interest much longer. Of course, some dogs are motivated far better by food. But as I keep saying - all dogs are different.
 

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PS. I actually prefer training with toys now that I have used this method with Dalton. In my experience, some dogs are motivated by play far better than by food PLUS play holds their interest much longer. Of course, some dogs are motivated far better by food. But as I keep saying - all dogs are different.
Toys are great for training in drive. However, when teaching new behaviors from the start, toys generally give you a much lower rate of reinforcement and a much greater time between repetitions. This makes the learning process go much slower and can make teachings some behaviors very difficult. Ideally, one would want to work towards a dog who find both treats and play/toys to be rewarding. Like I said, you can improve on on what you have as far as drive goes.

An example is that I introduce agility equipment and behaviors such as 2o2o using food. I need a higher rate of reinforcement and to work on more precision than just toys would allow. Once the dog is confident and consistent, my preference is to use a toy to reward. I also use the toy to teach weaves because it encourages more speed, drive and takes the focus off the handler.

Is the OP just looking to teach their dog to drop their ball on the string? Or what do they want the dog to leave? Leave it or Drop It can mean many things to different people.
 

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Toys are great for training in drive. However, when teaching new behaviors from the start, toys generally give you a much lower rate of reinforcement and a much greater time between repetitions. This makes the learning process go much slower and can make teachings some behaviors very difficult. Ideally, one would want to work towards a dog who find both treats and play/toys to be rewarding. Like I said, you can improve on on what you have as far as drive goes.

An example is that I introduce agility equipment and behaviors such as 2o2o using food. I need a higher rate of reinforcement and to work on more precision than just toys would allow. Once the dog is confident and consistent, my preference is to use a toy to reward. I also use the toy to teach weaves because it encourages more speed, drive and takes the focus off the handler.
I use treats AND toys the same way. Best to have both rewards in my bag of tricks. Tiny treats (real treats, real small, HUNGRY dog) can be rewarded fast, swallowed fast, and training can immediately continue so dog is still focused and learning.

I'm all about the toy because of the excitement and drive it can add for the training. But a rousing game of tug as a reward is a HUGE break in the training. As is throwing a ball out and away from me (and what we were working on).

So I use the treats (clicker too :) ) a ton when teaching the finer details and building on a new behavior. But once they get it, it's all about the toy/tugging to reward for a good behavior and to keep the dog interested in continuing the session. Nice rewarding break as a reward.

100% of the time when I've seen treats not work:

  • Dog isn't hungry (skip meal before training, 2 meal if that works better) you should be using tons of rewards so your dog isn't starving, and you feed normal meal AFTER the session
  • Handler uses low value treats (to the dog). Doesn't matter if I pay $20 for some great dog treat, if my dog isn't interested it's low value TO THEM. Generally my fridge and my food is WAY higher value to my dogs than anything in the dog food aisle/pet store. Hotdogs, sharp stinky cheese, liverwurst, MEAT and MEAT, tortellinis, pizza.....
  • Handers do not treat frequently enough. Using treats is FEEDBACK to our pups that they are brilliant! And if instead of using the treats constantly (in the beginning) so our pups learn to engage and keep trying cause a treat will come in a sec, we only reward a FINAL behavior every 3 or 4 minutes when WE think they FINALLY got it right. Heck, you rather get a paycheck every week or every other month!
Look how frequently this training is milking the treats out for her puppy, this is the ideal way to get our dogs used to the treats-as-reward. Once the puppy 'gets' it' then we don't have to use them as fast/frequent. But you only know they are 'getting it' when they ARE with your and jumping on you/at you/with you IF YOU ARE TREATING WITH REAL TREATS FREQUENTLY ENOUGH.


 

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The Italian One
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Is it really that hard to give this member advice on training with a toy? :)

MRL, do you know of any videos that show training with a ball? OP has already stated that the basics are trained and is looking for a step above the basics. Thank you.
 

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Is it really that hard to give this member advice on training with a toy? :)

MRL, do you know of any videos that show training with a ball? OP has already stated that the basics are trained and is looking for a step above the basics. Thank you.
Both the videos I showed also have the handlers using toys. And if anyone would rather continue to only use a toy, WHEN and HOW you use it as a reward for a training behavior is exactly the same.

Only the training/learning is going to take vastly more time because playing with a toy, no matter what toy, if it's really going to be a clear reward, is going to take up more more of your training 'time' than the training.
 
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