Your dog might like a “good boy” or a pat on the head as much as a treat

I’ve read several articles lately about a study done at Emory University looking at what motivates dogs more, food or praise.  Of the 15 dogs studied, 13 showed equal or greater preference for praise compared to food and two preferred food to praise.  The researchers figured this out by looking at the dogs’ brains with an MRI scan while they were shown an object that they had been taught to associate with food or praise.  They also tested the dogs’ behavior in a maze where they could choose whether to go to food or their owner.  The dogs behaved as predicted by the MRI.

So what does this mean for our dogs?  Even though this is one study, with only 15 dogs, most of them responded to praise as much as food so it may be worth trying praise instead of a food reward when training our dogs.  It may be just as effective and it has fewer calories which could be a good thing for many dogs.

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