Low Food Drive: Training Alternatives

Low Food Drive: Training Alternatives

By Amber Kingsley

When it comes to training a dog, you’ll find that some dogs will perform commands easily, requiring a minimal amount of effort on your part. Some dogs only need a little encouragement from a small bit of food or from a favorite toy to perform the task as desired.

Other dogs may be a little less accommodating, which can lead to some frustrations during training. Some dogs will train more slowly, seeming to have a mind of their own, acting as if they’re going to do what they want on their own time schedule. You may have to appeal to this type of dog’s food drive more often to achieve success in your training.

Understanding Food Drive
A dog’s food drive is a measurement of its desire to eat. Different breeds of dogs will have different levels of food drive, and even within a breed you will find individual dogs with different levels.

High food drive: A dog that has a high food drive will attempt to eat as much food as possible at meal time. If you have multiple dogs in your home, the dog with a high food drive may eat all of its food and then attempt to eat any food the other dogs have left in their bowls, for example. This type of dog can be easier to train, as it’ll be motivated to learn tasks through its desire for food.

Low food drive: A dog with a low food drive will be picky at meal time, and it may not really seem to enjoy its food much. When you attempt to give the dog a treat, it might not grab the treat immediately. And this type of dog may be unwilling to perform training tasks simply because of the reward of a treat.

Dealing With High Food Drive Dogs
It’s important to keep an eye on a dog with high food drive at meal time, as this type of dog may end up overeating, leading to problems such as vomiting. Don’t let the dog find other sources of food. Cat food can be especially bad for a dog, leading to excessive weight gain.

When training a dog with a high food drive, you have to be careful that you don’t overdo the treats during training. For simple commands, you could end up completing the task a dozen times in a few minutes, and if you provide a treat each time, you may overfeed the dog.

Dealing With Low Food Drive Dogs
While some people may give up on training a dog with a low food drive, labeling the dog as unintelligent, you must have some patience with this type of dog. It may take quite a bit of experimenting, but you probably can find something that will motivate the dog, even if it’s not food related.

Make it a game: Consider motivating the dog with a low food drive by appealing to the dog’s curiosity. Place the treat in a container and let the dog hear the food rattling inside. Let the dog chase the container around the room for a bit before giving it a command. Once it obeys the command, open the container and allow the dog to have the treat, which it may be more motivated to eat now, thanks to its initial curiosity.

Toy: Some dogs will prefer a toy to food when it comes to motivation, listening intently to the trainer as long as the toy is in view. Retrievers may follow this type of training method for a tennis ball, for example.

Noise: Some dog trainers will use a clicker or other type of noise to gain the dog’s attention. Often times, though, the trainer will train the dog initially to associate the clicker with a treat, and eventually the dog responds to the noise instead of the treat, so this method may not work well with a low food drive dog.

Uniform: Some breeds just want to work. The anticipation of going to work as a volunteer or performing a task may be enough to motivate the dog during training. Some types of dogs will wear a vest when performing work, and sometimes simply putting the dog in its vest will cause it to become motivated to train. The dog will almost seem to change its personality and attitude when wearing its uniform, because it knows it’s now time to work.

Training a dog with low food drive can be frustrating at times. But the time you spend working with this dog will result in a very satisfying reward for both of you, once you find the type of training motivation that works! n

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