Thursday, October 17, 2013

7A What Do I Use if My Dog isn't Food Motivated?

Before answering this question, I pose several others to
see what may be happening in the situation to rule
them out first. Food is such a great tool to train service
dogs, not using it can really slow the training process down.

First: Rule out medical reasons: Check your dog's teeth and gums. Eating may be painful. Have you ruled out allergies? If you dog eats (say chicken) and gets an upset stomach, he is not likely to be food motivated. 

Second question -are you free feeding? If so, putting food down only twice a day for 10 minutes each will increase the motivation. (and using the food itself for training will increase motivation. There is something intrinsically rewarding about working for food, rather than being given it.)

Third question. is the dog overweight? If so, cut back to a good weight. 

Fourth make sure you are using the highest value food you know of. Cooked beef heart, liver, real meats (beef, turkey, chicken)  all rate high with
most dogs, especially if freshly cooked. Experiment.

Fifth, are you training above her threshold level for
the value of food? If so, lower the distractions and progress as she is able in tiny tiny step steps. 

Sixth, can you combine reinforcers to create a higher 
value (i.e. throw a treat to make a game of it). 

Seventh, what real life motivators does she have? What 
makes her go nuts that you wish she wouldn't? 
(jumping on people, sniffing, greeting other dogs,
chasing squirrels, greeting people,  etc.) Put those on 
cue use them as reinforcers. 


Integrate Real Life Reinforcers Sooner 
Once a dog has been taught the basic behavior with the
food at home, start integrating the real life reinforcers
sooner than later. Do the behavior and go out the door
for a short walk or play session. Going pee, going out
a gate, into a car, sniffing, greeting another dog, greeting a person can all be real life reinforcers.  Ask for the desired behavior fist, then cue dog to do the 
reinforcing activity, . The bonus is that is you pair them 
consistently and the dog cannot do them at any other 
time, you are using the Premack Principle-the most 
effective tool in the dog training tool box.

Capture Behaviors
You could also wait her out. Take a chair and sit with 
her on leash in a really boring location that limits what 
she can see in 3 directions. Use barriers if necessary 
and wait for any attention. C/t. It will come as she gets 
bored. (This is capturing). Decrease the visual barriers 
as she is able to stay focussed on you.

After that build up to the 'Gimme a Break' game by
Leslie McDevitt. Do 5 really fast behaviors in a row  like
nose target (can be the same one to start) then dismiss
the dog for one minute. Then re-engage her, do the
same 5 really fast behaviors and dismiss. Repeat. You 
will find she chooses to re-engage sooner than the 
minute as being there is really boring and training with
you is more exciting/reinforcing. Over time, add more
repetitions in a row, change up the behaviors or increase the 
duration/difficulty. It's all about increments.