But - my dog has a low food drive

17 Jan 2022, 6:13 a.m. by Tracey McLennan

I hear from people often who tell me that they can’t train using food because their dog doesn’t have all that much interest in it and when they go outside, the dog just won’t eat. People have often tried every type of food they can think of to get their dog to even eat when they’re outside on a walk. Some dogs will even take food in their mouth and then spit it back out again. I’ve even spoken to people who now rely on tools designed to startle, hurt, or scare their dog to keep them under control because they cannot use food.

It absolutely is a huge problem for many people and if it is one you are having, I know how hard it is to have a dog who won’t eat. I’ve worked through this a couple of times with my own dogs. Food is so useful as a reward, to provide something for the dogs to do, to lower excitement, at times when throwing a toy might not be possible – eating well really is top of my list of things I want my dogs to be able to do. If you are struggling with getting your dog to eat, here’s a little thought that might just start to help you make a shift. If your dog already isn’t terribly interested in food, make sure that you are being generous with food. I’ve noticed that people often feel guilty about giving their dogs food – probably because they get lots of negative comments from passers-by. At least once a week somebody will comment to me that my dog is spoilt because they’ve seen me feed them.

What happens then is that people will often expect their dog to do something difficult before they get fed. The problem with that is that if the dog is already not interested in food and then they associate food with having to do something hard for them, they will get even less interested in food. So make it easy for them. Get into the habit of being generous with your food. Give out food when your dog does easy stuff – and ignore the negative comments. Those people don’t know anything about you or your dog so don’t take their comments on board.

Before the covid-19 pandemic I used to do some guest speaking for a great little community interest company called Paws for Progress. I would go to Polmont Young Offenders Institute and talk to them about TTouch. The young men on the program train rescue dogs to help them find new homes. What I’ve always noticed is that they are super generous with their food. They give out food when dogs do easy things and if the dog does something difficult, they give them lots of food. They are so keen to make things easy for the dogs. That generosity with food allows them to teach those rescue dogs some pretty amazing things.


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Hi - I'm Tracey

I am the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. I specialise in helping people with dogs who have a high prey drive. I have an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, am a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and an ACE Advanced Tutor. I am currently studying for an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Training.

I love to hear from people who read my blog so if you want to let me know what you thought, email me on tracey@bestdoglearningandstuff.co.uk