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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone! I currently have a dog in training and am struggling to find an irresistible treat to hold his attention.

So far we have tried the following with lukewarm results:hot dogs, cheese, pupperoni, canine carry outs, salmon, fruitables, yogurt drops, dog jerky,kibble, and a few other store bought treats.

He will absolutely refuse carrots, green beans, asparagus, bananas, and goldfish crackers.

I’m trying to avoid chicken based treats due to allergies.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I really need this dog to get motivated and focus!

Thanks!
 

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Are you saying he has low food drive?
If that is the case you have some choices. You can not feed him for two meals (dinner and breakfast) and see if the food becomes more valuable. You can try not feeding him in a bowl at all and all food is earned in training so that "training = survival." A dog will not starve itself to death.

If the dog has plenty of food drive, then the question becomes one of either the trainer and clarity and timing OR the dog's nerve, fear and confidence (and any combination of that).

Here is an analogy:
With tracking training for sport, the dog must be obedient to the track. Nose down and moving footstep to footstep at a methodical speed and with concentration. Some trainers use pressure. I do not because pressure makes unreliability.

If a dog has low food drive, they don't get fed for 3-4 DAYS and then they are taken tracking and all the food they eat from there on out until they get the idea of what we are doing is on the track. No food anywhere else in their lives. It makes the tracking training much more 'motivating' to the dog.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi-at this time he has food withheld the evening and morning prior to class. He will accept certain treats at home but at training class all bets are off. Very odd.
 

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He may be stressed or overexcited if he'll take treats at home but not in a class environment. How does he act in class? Really excited, unfocused, all over the place? Or exceptionally calm and quiet? It's pretty normal for dogs to be less willing to take treats when they're less comfortable or unable to chill out, so it could be worth talking to your trainer about.

I've got a total food hound who thinks kibble is an amazing treat, so I haven't tried it myself, but I've heard lots of people rave about the 'tuna fudge' dog treat recipe you can find online for dogs. Alternatively, if he's more into toys and playing, you might find more success in rewarding him with a quick game of tug or other play session.
 

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It's not entirely about which treat you use, especially if you are attempting to 'hold his attention' or obtain focus. There is a lot of technique involved ... rate of reinforcement, reinforcement history, placement / delivery of treats, unpredictable / random variety, clarity of cues, general relationship between dog and handler, etc. Add to that, other factors such as environment and level of distraction, and level of stress. And more. Treat selection can certainly play a part, but it's not the be all end all of successful training.

That said, you can try appealing to his sense of SMELL. Stinky cheese may help. See if inexpensive parmesan cheese rinds are available at your local deli counter, or sometimes I'll use nippy provolone. Either of those can be cut into small-ish cubes. Leftover meat ends from the deli counter are another go-to, and they're really inexpensive to purchase too. Some ideas there might be garlic bologna, pastrami, montreal smoked meat, salami, etc. In particular, the roast beef ends that I get have a quite strong garlic aroma. All of the ones I've recommended are generally pretty pungent, and flavourful.

Reserve the *really good ones* for use only at class.

Also, consider the use of toys, personal play, and life rewards.
 

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Is the dog motivated by toys? You could try that.

Lunch meat? My dog always likes roast beef. It has a strong smell, so the more the better.

Also, how old is the dog? Sometimes very young puppies are simply not that motivated by much of anything yet. Also, I would not withhold food from small, toy type dogs or puppies for any great length of time. There is a risk of hypoglycemia if small dogs or puppies are not fed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hi everyone-thank you for your responses! Rumple is a corgi mixed with who knows what and a rescue. Estimated to be four. He left bed squeaky toys and is a spaz and has the attention span of a gnat.

He does get very excited at class and has tough guy syndrome. But not in an aggressive way. Just nosy.

I did pull out a toy out of my bag of tricks last night when treats failed. I had his attention for about 60 seconds. And that was that.

We have been working on “look” with a reward. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. I try to coax him to look with a treat and he literally turns his nose up and looks everywhere but where he is supposed to. Ugh.
 

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How is he at home where nothing that exciting is happening? Does he pay more attention then? If he pays more attention at home, it's probably that the classes are just way overstimulating.

Wet food or peanut butter in a tube is a good treat, too!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I absolutely agree that classes are over stimulating to him. That being said, I think it is somewhat good for him to have the experience. But it’s not getting us very far in training.

So to those who suggest peanut butter or wet food-how do you handle it in class as far as dispensing?
 

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I think the problem is not the treats but the environment, and maybe how your dog is handled in that environment. What do you do when your dog is unfocused and at the end of the leash? Most people try to bribe with treats, pet/reassure their dog, snap their fingers, try to get the dog's attention, etc. And all of that fluster adds more stress to the dog. Assuming your dog is not classically reactive (barking and lunging at other dogs and people in class) and is simply distracted, my advice is: let your dog be distracted. Hold the leash short, ~3', and ignore all of that. He's not being reinforced by the environment. He's not being reinforced by you. You might not be getting the attention you want, but nothing bad is happening either. The moment he calms down or turns to you, mark and reward with a treat. Then ignore him again and see what he chooses. By letting a dog calm down you open the possibility of reward based training. Treats are great but we still need to give the dog room to make (good) decisions. I've seen a lot of reward based trainers insisting with treats so hard to the point where the dog is totally disengaged from the handler.
 

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So to those who suggest peanut butter or wet food-how do you handle it in class as far as dispensing?
I've never actually used it in a class, but there are a few options:

- Simply use the whole jar - take the lid off and let him take a lick as a treat.
- Use other treats as a scoop - scoop some peanut butter onto a treat and give that to him
- They sell individual-size peanut better. You could keep that in your treat pouch, then use one of the above methods to treat. https://www.amazon.ca/Jif-Creamy-Peanut-Butter-250g/dp/B01N2V1O3N/ref=asc_df_B01N2V1O3N/?tag=googleshopc0c-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=292871812293&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17233086111198137110&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9001521&hvtargid=pla-434391812773&psc=1

Make sure you and your dog are both clicker trained. The click will instantly mark the correct behaviour and indicate that a reward is coming (or use a word or other sound to replace the clicker). It's a more accurate way of training since the dog will know more clearly which behaviour is correct, rather than having to wait for you to get a treat out (by then they've done several other things and might not be sure which is being rewarded).
 

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I agree with Canyx. Letting the dog learn how to disengage with interesting things on their own is surprisingly powerful! If possible, I'd suggest working some distance from the other students so that it's less overwhelming for your pup, then reward with treats or play when your pup decides on his own to do something besides fixate on the other dogs. For us, turning and running a short distance playfully (away from the exciting thing) has been really successful reinforcement for this kind of natural disengagement, though we do follow it up with a treat.
 
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