Building Food Drive

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Postby katiek0417 » May 26th, 2006, 11:45 am

I'm not sure if this topic goes here or under Nutrition and Health, so if you think it goes under Nutrion, Michelle, please move it there (just let me know that you moved it).

So, I'm really torn. My little one will not work for hot dogs....my trainer keeps telling me she's not hungry enough. When she developed the explosive colitis the other night, I stopped feeding her...(so, she had a meal on Tuesday morning, but not Tuesday night)....I fed her on Wednesday morning...but she was still a little soft, so I didn't feed her on Wed night...I typically don't feed on Thursday morning since we train on Thursday nights....

So, her last real meal was Wednesday morning....We also train on Saturdays (so I don't feed her Friday night or Sat morning).

My trainer told me to go longer without feeding her...this would almost mean going from Tuesday night to Saturday night without feeding her a meal...(she'd only get hot dog if we were "working")...

I don't know how comfortable I feel about this...she's only 10 months old...

What are your thoughts on this (Chris and Nelson, I'd really appreciate any input you might have on this topic)....
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby dogcrazyjen » May 26th, 2006, 12:14 pm

I am not Chris or Nelson, but I have been doing sports work for 7 years.

Does she have other drives? How is her play/toy drive? Tug? How about her pack drive (attention and praise)?

To me, insisting on using food for a dog who is not food motivated is like insisting on using a toy when the dog has no interest in toys. Play to her strengths, not her weaknesses. Why does your trainer feel she MUST work for food, and why does it HAVE to be hotdogs? You can train a dog to like toys, but it takes time, and simply taking away something she doesn't care about to begin with is not going to build drive.

Have you tried liver, liverworst, snack cheese balls (the bright orange kind), real cheese, BilJacks, chicken pieces, etc. Maybe she just does not like hot dogs. I have a dog in freestyle right now who will only eat Zweigler's hotdogs. She sticks her nose up at any other brand. (can't say I blame her!) I have another who works best for kibble of all things. Every dog is different. Sometimes teasing with a good scent for a while before giving it to them can build drive, but if she doesn't like it at all then it won't help.

At 10 months old, and I may be wrong here, but she is still growing and missing meals is probably not something to be done lightly, certainly not 4 days. And hot dogs are not exactly a completely balanced meal.

I would talk to your vet about this advice your trainer is giving you.
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Postby katiek0417 » May 26th, 2006, 12:42 pm

dogcrazyjen wrote:I am not Chris or Nelson, but I have been doing sports work for 7 years.

Does she have other drives? How is her play/toy drive? Tug? How about her pack drive (attention and praise)?

To me, insisting on using food for a dog who is not food motivated is like insisting on using a toy when the dog has no interest in toys. Play to her strengths, not her weaknesses. Why does your trainer feel she MUST work for food, and why does it HAVE to be hotdogs? You can train a dog to like toys, but it takes time, and simply taking away something she doesn't care about to begin with is not going to build drive.

Have you tried liver, liverworst, snack cheese balls (the bright orange kind), real cheese, BilJacks, chicken pieces, etc. Maybe she just does not like hot dogs. I have a dog in freestyle right now who will only eat Zweigler's hotdogs. She sticks her nose up at any other brand. (can't say I blame her!) I have another who works best for kibble of all things. Every dog is different. Sometimes teasing with a good scent for a while before giving it to them can build drive, but if she doesn't like it at all then it won't help.

At 10 months old, and I may be wrong here, but she is still growing and missing meals is probably not something to be done lightly, certainly not 4 days. And hot dogs are not exactly a completely balanced meal.

I would talk to your vet about this advice your trainer is giving you.


Jen, Thank you for your advice....I welcome all input about this....

I feel uneasy about doing this, which is why I posted....

She sometimes spits out the hot dogs (any and all kinds). She'll work for kibble (sometimes)....someone else suggested going to the deli in my market and ask for ends of meats (since they just throw it out anyway)...that way I can try different kinds to see what she likes)....

The problem is that she really gets bored with everything....even if I keep the sessions short (no more than 5 minutes)...she's bored with any reward if it's given for more than 1 minute)....She loves praise...but I can't use praise to teach her the attention heel (she's happy to get the praise, but it doesn't keep her looking up at me)...

I'll try some other foods to see if she does better with them....someone else (on another board) suggested raw chicken cut up...I just want to be careful b/c that can go bad so quickly....

Thank you for your advice...I appreciate the input....
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby msvette2u » May 26th, 2006, 12:55 pm

Yaeger is totally UNfood motivated and in fact food holds little value to him. He rarely guards his food from the other dogs, he'll get up and wander away from it. We have to guard it for him!
But I'd never consider withholding his food to GET him to be food motivated. It just would not happen. I'd use another drive like toy drive before I'd do that.
I don't think there is a food on earth or variety thereof that would GET him to be food motivated either. Using another drive only makes sense in that case.
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Postby mnp13 » May 26th, 2006, 12:59 pm

the idea is that hungry dogs are food motivated, when the dog is extra hungry it is extra willling to work for food. However, I agree with Katrina that skipping that many meals for a puppy is not a good idea.
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Postby msvette2u » May 26th, 2006, 1:03 pm

mnp13 wrote:the idea is that hungry dogs are food motivated, when the dog is extra hungry it is extra willling to work for food. However, I agree with Katrina that skipping that many meals for a puppy is not a good idea.

I think you'd have to skip a week's worth of meals for Yaeger to be food motivated. He's just not "into" food and never has been, even as a puppy. Oh and it doesn't matter what brand either, he just doesn't seem to care as much as many/most dogs about food.
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Postby katiek0417 » May 26th, 2006, 1:19 pm

Thank you, everyone!!!

I really wasn't sure if I was being overly "mommy-ish" in feeling uneasy about letting her go that long without eating....

Sacha is 2 years old, and if he suggested I do this with her, I'd have no problem (unless she was pregnant)....I'm just uneasy being that she's still so young (and he keeps saying she's still growing)

Thank you for confirming what I was thinking
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby dogcrazyjen » May 26th, 2006, 1:28 pm

But food is just one drive! How about rewarding for attention with a game of tug, or a ball thrown, or a squeaky toy. I sometimes will use a happy squeaky voice for Jack, boy does he give me attention for that!

There are so many ways to motivate, why just use one?

Are you only giving one treat no matter how much she does? I call it Pez Dispenser rewarding, and it can kill motivation quicker than anything. If she walks 3 steps, she gets one piece of hot dog, if she walks 20 steps, she gets one piece of hot dog. After a while, what is the point?

If you look at a soda machine vs a slot machine, which has people glued to it for hours spending hundreds of dollars? (Clue, not the soda machine) People do the minimum to get a soda, but they are so excited at the prospect of winning big they focus and work for hours on a slot machine.

If you vary the reward, it becomes more interesting.

Example: Heel 3 feet, give one piece chicken, heel 5 feet, give 4 pieces hot dogs, (one at a time so it lasts longer) then heel 2 feet, they get praise, then 6 feet, they get 3 pieces cheese, then 4 feet, they get a game of tug. A jackpot is getting a huge reward, such a long game of tug, a thrown toy, or 10 cookies. Jackpot should not always come at the end of working. Vary when the jackpot occurs, usually when the dog does an especially excellent job. Obviously as the dog learns he does more between rewards, but the principle is the same.

Varying which sort of reward, as well as how many or long the reward lasts, makes it very hard for the dog to predict what it will get. It may get that jackpot at any time, so better keep working hard.

Also, I would add praise with the food treat. High, squeaky happy voice "Oh what a good dog, One treat, two treats THREE treats..Whooohooo!!"If you are more enthused, your dog may pick up on that.

I am on a flyball team, and they are the worst motivators I have ever seen. I send Jack, I hollar Bring IiiiiiiiiT! as I am running away with a huge tug, he gets to me grabbing the tug and swings around with momentum and we tug like crazy until the next run. He is fast, reliable, and never even looks at another dog..and I mean never.

Everyone else sends their dog, stands there like a lump, or maybe calls their name, then grabs the collar, shoves one treat in their mouths, and ignores their dog! Then they wonder why their dogs start to wander after 2 runs, going around jumps, visiting other dogs, etc.

Grr, if I try to say anything, they ignore it. :rolleyes2:


Anyways, motivation is one of my favorite things to work on. Each dog has drive in there somewhere, I find it very rewarding to keep searching to see what makes that dog tick.
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Postby katiek0417 » May 26th, 2006, 1:39 pm

I typically don't reward her every time for the behaviors she knows (and knows well). For example...if I tell her to sit, she plants her a$$ on the ground every time I say it...same for down....she also knows to hold those until she's released...for those I let her jump on me as her reward (and she gets loved on)....

For heeling, though, he wants me to use the food to have her drive my hand. So, I keep my hand (with the hot dog in it) where I want her head to be....she nibbles as she walks, and she learns that is where to keep her head...I can't say the method DOESN'T work b/c this is how he's trained every one of his dogs, and how he had me train Sacha...so, I need to find something that will keep her attention up at me...I've tried mommy voice, I've tried the tug...neither work (although she'll react to both if we're doing sit, stay, down, come, etc)....

She's tug motivated...but loses interest quickly...she loves squeeky toys...but she's chewy on them (b/c she wants to hear the squeek), and that is transferring over to bitework...I have a tug that's squeaky...I might try that with her a little....she loves all toys....but I can't use them to keep her head up during the heel....

Maybe I should use something she really loves while heeling...then reward her with something else for other behaviors?
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby msvette2u » May 26th, 2006, 1:48 pm

katiek0417 wrote:Thank you, everyone!!!

I really wasn't sure if I was being overly "mommy-ish" in feeling uneasy about letting her go that long without eating....

Sacha is 2 years old, and if he suggested I do this with her, I'd have no problem (unless she was pregnant)....I'm just uneasy being that she's still so young (and he keeps saying she's still growing)

Thank you for confirming what I was thinking

It sounds like your instincts were right on target. You know your dog best. I know for Yaeger, trying to starve him into food motivation wouldn't work!
I don't know your trainer but yes it seems as if they ought to be open to finding/understanding your dogs' motivation and using that. Maybe they don't know there is other motivations (like Jen said). In that case you may need to find another trainer :|
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Postby katiek0417 » May 26th, 2006, 1:52 pm

msvette2u wrote:
katiek0417 wrote:Thank you, everyone!!!

I really wasn't sure if I was being overly "mommy-ish" in feeling uneasy about letting her go that long without eating....

Sacha is 2 years old, and if he suggested I do this with her, I'd have no problem (unless she was pregnant)....I'm just uneasy being that she's still so young (and he keeps saying she's still growing)

Thank you for confirming what I was thinking

It sounds like your instincts were right on target. You know your dog best. I know for Yaeger, trying to starve him into food motivation wouldn't work!
I don't know your trainer but yes it seems as if they ought to be open to finding/understanding your dogs' motivation and using that. Maybe they don't know there is other motivations (like Jen said). In that case you may need to find another trainer :|


He knows there are other motivations....he also uses tugs, toys, attention, bites for his dogs....other people I train with use tugs.......so, he knows there are other motivations....

For some reason he doesn't want to entertain them with my dogs, though....he's unusually tough on me (right, Michelle?)....I know he wants me to do well...but she's still MY dog....I have to do right by her....and if it means holding off building her food drive until she's over a year old, then that's fine....but I just can't bring myself to do it now....
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby dogcrazyjen » May 26th, 2006, 1:58 pm

WHat is the behavior he is looking for? Drive for the hand? I thought you wanted attentive heeling?

I guess i am a little confused. I am sure if I understood it would make sense, Maybe the drive to the hand is just the first step?

How about letting her figure it out, and rewarding for doing it right. Maybe she needs more freedom in her training to make mistakes. Some of my dogs learn by not getting it right and getting nothing, then getting rewarded for correct behavior. So I walk along, and when the dog gets close to heel position, they are rewarded next to my leg for position. I do not lure, so the dog can walk away, or walk on the right, or walk ahead of me and get nothing, or they can come into heel and be rewarded. Then it is up to the dog to figure out what is getting them rewards. When they have position, which I train both moving and stationary, then I can up the expectation so they have to maintain heel position a moment or two before getting rewarded. I just continue, making the expectation harder.

I have one especially who does not do well under pressure of physical handling, so I allow her to do it on her own. If I lure her, she pays no attention to what she is doing, if I try to force her physically, she shuts down. Dang dog, make me do it the hard way! Everything is off leash with her, and hands free.

Well, let us know how it goes. These things are always fascinating how they turn out.
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Postby katiek0417 » May 26th, 2006, 2:04 pm

dogcrazyjen wrote:WHat is the behavior he is looking for? Drive for the hand? I thought you wanted attentive heeling?

I guess i am a little confused. I am sure if I understood it would make sense, Maybe the drive to the hand is just the first step?


Driving to the hand is the first step...teaches them the position...keeps their head up and wrapped around front (if that makes sense)...while they are doing that, we praise, praise, praise with our voice (so braf, good fulligan) in happy mommy voice...so, yes, they're getting the food....but they're also getting praised with our voices...when we release them...they get loved on...

At the same time, i am teaching her to catch food (right now from my hand, eventually I'll spit it out at her - hence why I'd like to use "real" food for this)....

After a while I'll start to move my hand away a little (but still keep it in front, but she'll have to look up to see it....

Eventually this turns into them looking up and you being able to spit food out at them...

This is what I did with Sacha....
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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Postby dogcrazyjen » May 26th, 2006, 3:38 pm

That makes sense.

I taught eye contact first and seperately. Then I taught position seperately. When they were heeling ok, I started clicking for eye contact in heel position.

I love seeing how different people get to the same place.
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Postby grizzly » May 27th, 2006, 2:50 am

its been provin in weight pullin that training with bait will lead to disaster
when you are teaching a dog to work he/she needs to learn to do it because there told to not because they are starving( i am not saying you are starving you dog just a figure of speach)
many handlers feed after training stateing dogs work better hungry- in greenland the sled dogs wont work unless hungry
i have a problem with this -try not eating all day then go to the gym and see how much energy you have
griz will not eat dog food on the road so i now give him hot dogs before he pulls so he has so energy to pull the heavy loads
i couldn't believe how many people at the ukc show were tring to entice there dogs to pull by pretending to have treats
you will never make a great puller with baiting -the dog get aggervated and is now pulling for the wrong reasons if they pull at all(because they know if you really have treats or not
mark landers wrote a great artical about training and covers more in detail the negitive effects of baiting
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Postby cheekymunkee » May 27th, 2006, 3:02 am

She's a smart girl! She KNOWS hot dogs are nasty! :D
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Postby Patch O' Pits » May 27th, 2006, 7:20 am

Good advice was already posted. Honestly. I say it is time to find a new trainer for her if this one is not willing to take another approach :shock:
She is too young to with hold food for a week just for training purposes especially if she already has stomach issues. YIKES
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Postby Romanwild » May 27th, 2006, 8:10 am

I agree with Dogcrazyjen.

Variable reinforcement is the best way to go. I use all kinds of treats (my homemade ones are called dog crack :D ) Tug, laser, and last year I had great results with the attention one (can't remember the name).

I was at a seminar and when we weren't working I put Dreyfus away, out of sight. I took him out only when we were going to work. At the end of the session I would jack pot him and put him away. That was cool because I just taught him what to do with nothing more then verbal praise and jack pot at the end of the session.

Anyway, I would definately vary the rewards. I don't let my dogs play with any of their rewards. I put them away and they only get them when we are training. That might help you with his toy drive.
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Postby pocketpit » May 27th, 2006, 2:19 pm

I'd have to agree that I would respectfully tell my trainer that the idea he proposes does not make you comfortable and you are not going to do it.

My male Doberman has taken a long time to teach attention work. He's an overactive whacko who's easily distracted and is not food motivated. Over time I have gotten him to eat certain treats like hot dogs but overall he doesn't care for food. Thankfully he does like to play tug so I'm able to use something. And you can use praise to teach attention work. With Brody I did "loose leash walking" and really emphasised the word "yes" with praise when he was near heel position. Initially I'd literally stop the exercise when I said "yes" and we'd explode into some jumping around,acting retarded and playing tug. In your case, allow your dog to jump up on you and praise since she likes that. Try to get her to play tug briefly. After 30 seconds I pick the exercise back up again. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience. Many brief sessions are better than one or two longer ones during the day. With Brody I can now ask him to heel and if I lose attention or don't get it right away I can make a small collar correction and then I give the "yes" word when I get attention. This marks that he's chosen the right behavior and I seem to have no problem maintaining eye contact after that. If I want to continue to reinforce I just keep saying "yes" and you can actually see him build just waiting for his release. It may not work for you but it's the only way I was able to do it with him.
As someone previously mentioned, it's a good idea to teach the "look" exercise seperately from heel. I did some of this too I just used his tug as a reward instead of food. I think it helps to link the two exercises much faster.
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Postby katiek0417 » May 28th, 2006, 1:58 am

Well, I'm happy to say that I spoke to my trainer today, and we compromised. I would not feed Nisha Thursday morning or Thursday evening (since we train on Thursday night)...I would feed her friday morning, but not not night, and not Sat morning (b/c we train Sat morning).

I would keep food for the attention heeling, while using other forms of motivation for things she knows well (sit, down, stay, etc)...I would use the tug for that....

ALSO, I would explore other treats...I suggested that I didn't think she liked hot dogs. Today I used ham and liverwurst, and she was a happy puppy!!!!

I'll keep everyone posted as to how it goes....
"Rumor has it, compulsion is evil."

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