Tips please - Dog with no food motivation has no recall!

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Tips please - Dog with no food motivation has no recall!

This is a discussion on Tips please - Dog with no food motivation has no recall! within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Hi, thanks for reading. We have an 11 month old un-neutered male dog who is super lovely. He is gentle, tolerant, has no aggression towards ...

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Old 08-25-2018, 02:53 PM
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Tips please - Dog with no food motivation has no recall!

Hi, thanks for reading.
We have an 11 month old un-neutered male dog who is super lovely. He is gentle, tolerant, has no aggression towards anything. He has always been very independent (even the very first night we brought him home at 8 weeks, he just slept happily in his crate alone without a care in the world...), though he clearly loves us and is very playful and affectionate too.

The problem: he has NO RECALL! He actively runs away from us when we try to retrieve him at the dog park (unless HE is ready to go). He even sometimes does it in the house when we want to take him on walks (which he loves) - he runs to the other side of the table and only eventually, and reluctantly, comes out so that we can (gently, and while treating him) harness him. The biggest problem, which I have never had with a dog, is that he is NOT food motivated. He does not care about food. Beef liver versus playing with a dog? DOG always wins! He LOVES other dogs, like no dog I have ever known. He is a dog's dog and we just cannot seem to compete with them. He has completed two sets of obedience classes, and of course, we will continue... but he does very well in class, just not in the real world! His lack of recall really limits what we can do with him, since we can't go to most dog parks or places he can really burn off steam (for his safety).
If you have had experience training an independent dog who is not food motivated, any tips would be much appreciated!
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Old 08-25-2018, 03:40 PM
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Have you tried building toy drive? If you can find a toy that he absolutely loves and only use it as a reward that might work. Also try different foods, think outside the box. For some reason my boy LOVES applesauce, I can use that as his jackpot treat. He also loves oranges, and since he doesn't get them often they can be another really high value treat. So long as the food is dog safe, the dog loves it, and he only gets it as a reward, you might be able to use it. Another thing you can use as a reward is something he wants. I had one of my dogs trained to sit at a street corner, his reward for sitting was continuing the walk, if he didn't sit we'd just stand there, since he knew that he was willing to run up to the corner and auto sit till I gave him the release cue.

You need to work up to using recall at the dog park, start at home, in a boring room, then move to a more interesting part of the house, then the back yard, then front yard, then out on the street. You move to the new location as he becomes 100% reliable in the current locations, and slowly add distractions. So you wouldn't go from your front yard to the local park because that would be too many distractions too fast.

Also recall him, give him his really high value reward then release him. The idea is to teach him that coming to you gets him something great and then he's allowed to go back to what he is doing, so for him it's a win win. When I used to go to a dog park I walked there, and walked home, so my dogs knew that when we left they got to go exploring and they'd always come. Try something like that with your boy. Instead of calling him to leave, call him and take him exploring for 10 or more minutes before leaving. That way your recalling him does not mean the end of the fun.
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Old 08-25-2018, 04:10 PM
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Thanks for your thoughtful reply!
I honestly don't think food will work with him - even the trainer was surprised at how little he responded to food. (I think in obedience class he does well more so because he thinks it's fun and challenging?). We often call him just for play and not to make him do something he doesn't want to do, and at the dog park we call him many times to get a treat and then release, before we want to leave. All of it works fairly well (with the exception of putting on his harness to go for a fun walk...??) but NEVER when there's another dog. He's tricky, because he will come every time perfectly, when he's in the mood (and there's no dog), but when he changes his mind, good luck! Honestly I think he's too smart for us, lol.
I wonder if the special toy reward could work, but am not sure about how to go about that... He's not ball obsessed or anything, and while he is super playful, he does not seem to overly love toys, per se. But with his playful nature, maybe that could work. I will try! Thanks again.
(I have never known a dog like him! Our last dog would do ANYTHING for food, so, while he wasn't nearly as smart as our current dog, he was so much easier to train!)
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Old 08-25-2018, 09:21 PM
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I have an extremely smart dog who can be impossible to recall, is a very picky eaters, not really into balls or toys and loves other dogs too. They sound like they could be brothers lol. Mine is a couple of years older though and can be a very talented escape artist.
Neutering might help the drive for other dogs.
And my super picky eater will do anything for bacon treats. When I carry them with me, so will all the other dogs at the dog park and dog events. They'll ignore their owners and other treats and try to steal the bacon treats out of my pocket. When I call my dog usually ten dogs come running.
Squeaky toys are the other thing that I can get him with. Those are the two big motivators. At any dog park or event, I keep him on the leash at first to reset his brain. While he's all distracted but still leashed I keep practicing recall. If he's too distracted and ignoring me, I don't let him loose. When he reliably and quickly comes back five to ten times and is motivated and looking for more bacon treats in the setting we're going to be in, then I let him loose.
I'd keep looking for things that do motivate him. I feel your pain though, I've had a very similar dog for 2.5 years now.
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