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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I have what feels like a dumb question: How do I determine what treats Mercy considers high value?

She's really food motivated and snarfs down plain kibble, Natures Balance, green tripe and Cheerios with equal gusto. It seems to me that the stinky or meaty treats would be higher value than dry crumbly treats, but I see no evidence that she shares this opinion. As far as I can tell, in her opinion food is food, and all food is awesome.

So does it just not matter what I use for training treats?
 

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It probably doesn't matter what you use. If she always responds, then its "high value". Sasha will eat ANYTHING and ANYTHING works as a training treat for her. My other dog is picky and may turn his nose up at some things but peanut butter or cheese usually work for him.
 

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Take four treats she likes and lay them out next to each other (even spaced - not right on top of each other but close enough she knows that there is more than one)

whichever one she eats first high value, second, third, least.

Dogs totally have a preference :p Especially when certain treats are only used for certain things. I can't train Bella on her kibble for longer than a few minutes. Beggin' Strips would work for her but there can be ZERO distractions.

Hot dogs she gets VERY RARELY (they upset her tummy) and are a super high value treat to her and I use them when I really want her to do something.

Her food roll is a super high value treat - and she only gets that when I work with her on handling as it keeps her attention in pretty distracting situations.
 

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It's possible that in a low distraction environment, it's hard to tell and doesn't really matter. Once in a highly distracting environment, you might start to see a real difference. Mine will happily work for kibble in the living room, but in agility at the arena, I need to step it up!

I wish mine would work for cheerios!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The reason I really want to figure this out is that I've got some challenges to work on with her. Mercy is very nervous around traffic; as in she froze up in the parking lot of her boarding facility and I had to lead her the 150' to the car one treat at a time. I'd like to be able to desensitize her by giving her really awesome treats when she hears a car coming, before she gets over her threshold.
 

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Take four treats she likes and lay them out next to each other (even spaced - not right on top of each other but close enough she knows that there is more than one)

whichever one she eats first high value, second, third, least.
This is a good idea! I was wondering about this too. Biscuit seems to like everything equally at home (low distractions). Even at the dog park, she'll do tricks for kibbles (if I dare to bring kibble to the dog park...never the best idea). But last week for dog school my husband chopped up some Zuke's mini naturals (the rabbit flavor, which we thought would go over really well) into even tinier pieces. Biscuit seemed to love the Zuke's at home, but once she was in class with all the distractions and other dogs and other dogs' high value treats, she was suddenly more interested in the other dogs' high value treats. Sort of like first graders trading lunches, I guess.

I think it's back to hot dogs and string cheese this week. At least she pays more attention to that, even if two hot dogs and a string cheese does not make for the most nutritious dinner. Biscuit LOVES dog school because as far as she's concerned, it's hot dog school.
 

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It's possible that in a low distraction environment, it's hard to tell and doesn't really matter. Once in a highly distracting environment, you might start to see a real difference. Mine will happily work for kibble in the living room, but in agility at the arena, I need to step it up!

I wish mine would work for cheerios!!!
It is hard to tell in a low distraction environment. But generally a dog will prefer a more smelly/flavored treat. At least for Bella - I could train her on normal obedience with kibble but I can only do that for about 5 minutes. I could up it to cheerios and that might last 10-15 mins. String cheese I could train her all day with and the same for hot dogs and her food roll. They're very high value to her because she only gets them for specific things and I know that in a high distraction environment String Cheese, hot dogs and her food roll would hold up for any amount of time.

I started really paying attention to what Bella likes and using specific treats for different things. Like I said - her food roll treats she only got ONE day a week for an hour at our handling classes. They were SUPER high value to her - they were smelly/flavored enough (lamb) and I only introduced them once in the house to see how she'd react and then the only time she got them was at class. They were able to hold her attention from the other dogs and she was totally focused on what we were doing - they became her "working" treat.

It's a little bit of trial and error at first but once you figure it out it's pretty easy :p

String cheese a lot of people use - mainly because it doesn't upset a dogs stomach and from what I've seen dogs seem to love the stuff. The best thing about string cheese is if she does really enjoy it - you could work her in the areas and you could lead her with the cheese by just letting her nibble on it and walking.
 

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I work at a place that throws away a ton of food. I am allowed to bring a sanitized ice cream bucket and harvest "treats."

I have found that sausage, egg bake, and roast beef are particular favorites! Another incredible treat that ALWAYS goes over well is chicken liver. I boil, slice, then bake at a low temp until chewy and "pocket-able."

My dogs eat a ton of high calorie crap when we train. However, I use tiny pieces and cut back on regular food and keep them very, very active. I don't have a single dog with a weight problem.

Your dog will indicate their favorites. If you get into a situation where your dog is refusing the good stuff, then you are pushing the dog too hard and have shut him down. Then it's about making the situation less overwhelming and not about finding a better treat. In a pinch, I have purchased a corn dog to try to bring my dog out of her shell at a trial. Take it from me: That Was STUPID. I should have pulled her and done the hard work of slowly habituating her. It was dumb to buy a corn dog to save a "Q." And not fair to the dog.
 

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This reminds me of a test performed by my agility instructor a couple of years ago. We were instructed to bring "high value treats" to class, but Kit works for anything anywhere, so no need to go crazy finding the stinkiest treats. I was purposely using lower value stuff to keep her under threshold. I had a mix of kibble, carrots, green beans, and cheerios. The instructor was very unhappy with me, and thought she'd prove me wrong by offering Kit something better. She held out one hand full of my mix (low value) and one hand full of her stuff (cheese, chicken, hot dogs, etc.). Kit bolted straight there and engaged in what can only be described as a feeding frenzy. It looked like the cookie monster, complete with bits of treat flying everywhere. It was impossible to tell what she preferred.

A very highly food-motivated dog will work for anything anywhere, under any circumstances. It doesn't matter what you use.

If you really want to know what the dog finds most highly rewarding, see how long the dog will stand around begging while you're chopping the food. If the dog will hover for 10 minutes while you chop hot dogs, but only 5 minutes while you chop a block of cheese, then that tells you something. The only treat that Kit will literally drool for is popcorn, though she will hover around for as long as it takes for me to whip up a batch of salmon cookies.
 

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Kit bolted straight there and engaged in what can only be described as a feeding frenzy. It looked like the cookie monster, complete with bits of treat flying everywhere. It was impossible to tell what she preferred.
This....Thank you. Thank you for making that image so amazing I am now crying.
<3
 

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I'm still trying to find a high-value treat for Coco. I thought her bully stick was high value (when used to train "drop it," especially). However, her bully stick is not enough to entice her back in from the backyard. Oh, she comes over and looks at it longingly, but the moment I move even slightly she darts off to run around the yard, sniff and try to dig up the newly-laid sod. Obviously, being outside playing is far more high-value than a bully stick. I'm not fond of chasing her (although she's fond of me chasing her).

She loves boiled chicken, but that's not very smelly so I'm not sure it would work for teaching recall. She's only so/so on Zuke's treats (she'll do well with them training in a low-distraction environment, but otherwise no). Hot dog upsets her stomach, as does peanut butter.

I might try some smelly cheese, but I'm a little scared about what that will do to her digestively (and what I'll have to pick up on our walks lol).
 

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Cheese will make her constipated lol if you give her tons and tons of it. But you should really only be giving her pieces the size of your pinky fingernail. Cheese is pretty easy on the stomach and was recommended by a trainer to me when Bella had all her stomach problems.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
ding!ding!ding! We have a winner! String cheese is definitely on Mercy's highly valued treat list.

I've been trying to get her to feel more confortable riding in the car, but she'd never take treats from me when the engine was running (with the car in park). I felt bad because I thought she was too nervous to accept treats. Nope, I just wasn't offereing the right stuff. She gobbled up the string cheese like there's no tomorrow! Now I have a weapon... errr.. I mean tool to work on some of her more challenging issues :)

Thanks everyone!
 
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