Trying to Train a Picky Dog? Offer High-Value Treats!

A new study reveals a link between the value of a reward and a dog’s motivation level, so you might need to use high-value treats to help train your picky dog.

Training a puppy or a new dog in your life is a rewarding experience, but it requires patience, dedication, and lots of treats! However, dogs are individuals with unique food preferences, and some dogs are pickier than others. Recent research suggests that the quality of food influences a dog’s motivation. In other words, if you have a finicky Fido, treat training can still be effective as long as you find a high-value treat they’ll be willing to work for! Let’s learn more.

Why Treats Are an Effective Training Tool

Positive reinforcement is one of the most humane and effective ways to train a dog, and it can help build trust between you. Treats are an important component of positive reinforcement training, and they’re effective because most dogs are food-motivated! Dogs are quick to make associations, and treats are an immediate payment you can dole out to reinforce behaviors and actions. Consistency is another important element of training. When you give your dog a treat every time they perform a desired behavior, they’ll be more inclined to do it again because they know a treat awaits.

Some Dogs Are Pickier Than Others with Food

Just like humans, dogs can also be picky eaters. Being finicky about food can be caused by anxiety or stress, feeding habits, health issues, genetic and environmental factors, and basic taste preferences. In fact, a recent study from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary and Symrise Pet Food in France has found that not only are some dogs pickier than others when it comes to rewards, but also that the value of a reward can impact your dog’s motivation.

Picky Dogs Can Benefit from High-Value Treats

The study involved taking a group of dogs and training each to unwrap a box. The researchers then trained the dogs to associate one tone with a low-value reward and a second tone with a high-value reward. When they did the unwrapping experiment again, they found the dogs unwrapped the boxes faster when they heard the sound associated with the high-value reward. What’s more, the researchers conducted a similar experiment with a second group of dogs, but they also scanned the dog’s brains. When the dogs heard the tone associated with the high-value treat, there was a stronger response from the caudate nucleus, the part of the brain associated with reward processing.

The key takeaway is that your dog’s brain distinguishes rewards based on quality. Therefore, the treats you choose can influence your dog’s motivation during training. As such, if you’re having trouble getting your dog to perform or repeat behaviors or actions, try high-value treats. It might take some time to find something your dog will work for, but the results will be well worth it!



Animal Wellness

Animal Wellness is North America\’s top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.

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