How can I improve my dog's food drive and motivation?
I take my dog to a training group where we train for an 1hr once a week it’s mostly fun stuff, since we finished out good citizen scheme. But I still struggle a lot with her food drive and after about 45mins at training she just switches off and refuses all the treat I offer. She also will refuse to play at all at my training club. I’ve worked a lot on engagement, making her work for her food. She just has very little interest in food (sometimes she doesn’t even want breakfast or dinner after me making her work for it). How can I improve her food drive and motivation? She’s a Jack Russell x Mini dachshund.
The first thing I'll mention is that even if I am working a dog that has over the top food drive I would not train for a long period of time; maybe 10 minute sessions at the very most (and this is for a highly motivated dog that is wanting to engage and play) . When you have a dog without a ton of food drive or motivation, making them go to a training class can further suppress any desire they have to work. Many dogs become overwhelmed by their environment especially if they are being asked to pay attention and work for something they are not highly motivated for.
What is the age of your dog and what are your training goals with her?
She turns 3 in October. She was able to train at classes pretty well until we moved into a different group of dogs. But I like to teach her tricks and general obedience but it's very hard to get her to do anything when she has so little motivation to focus on me. Currently when she looses focus when training I'll give a verbal correction but a lot of the time they don't work.
Instead of working on structured behaviors I would suggest you back up and work on getting her engaged with you. If she isn't paying attention it can be for a couple of reasons 1) she's bored 2) the rewards you have aren't valuable enough for her 3) she's mentally tired from the sessions being either too long or overwhelming for her. Maybe there are dogs in the new group that are giving off a vibe that makes her slightly uncomfortable.
I would recommend a couple of different videos we offer about using food dynamically to get your dog engaged and to keep them motivated once you have them engaged. Dogs like action and movement and the more predictable and patterned your training is, the less interesting you are to your dog. The first order of business is to find a high value food reward which may be something like steak, cheese, chicken, etc... Something she never gets at any other time except during training time. For a dog like this I would withhold her meals on the days you train until after you are done as well. The more the food comes from YOU (directly from your hand/pocket) the more interesting that food is. Don't try to use regular dry treats or her regular dog food for this.