A lot has been written about “high value” vs “low value” treats but my experience is that my dogs have eaten leftover bits of ribeye steak, salmon fudge, shaved deli luncheon meat, string cheese, hotdogs, Charlie Bears, bits of toast, cold cereal, peas and their kibble with the same level of enthusiasm — like they are starving creatures who haven’t been fed for weeks. I suspect they might eat drywall and roofing nails with equal levels of delight, although I have no intention of testing that theory.
I don’t totally buy into the theory of “high value” treats, not just because the dogs' enthusiasm level doesn’t seem to change between Cheerios and garlic chicken but because I’m not sure my dogs have ever actually TASTED their treats in the first place.
The first two dogs who shared my adult life were shelties and while I hate breed stereotyping, shelties really do eat anything. And they eat it in a hurry. There is no leisurely savoring of flavors or appreciative sniffing and chewing. It’s just in and gone. Snap, snap. Got more?
I always joked that Jamie was so food driven because he was raised by shelties. He spent a number of years with Jess and Connor and apparently they imprinted upon him the importance of 1) eat everything you can get 2) eat it fast 3) demand more 4) steal it if you have to.
When Phoenix arrived, his breeder told me he was the “slow eater” of his litter. Dear God in Heaven, I was scared to see how the other puppies ate because putting a bowl in front of him triggered some cosmic vacuum that sucked his meal and anything else within a four-foot vicinity into his maw.
In short, I have never had a picky eater. This is a blessing because it’s convenient to grab whatever treats are at hand without worrying about having the “special” treat that is the magic cure to all our training problems. (If only it were that easy!)
That’s not to say I haven’t pulled out the “big guns” from time to time when I hoped to make a statement about a particular skill or exercise. While I suspect this may have been more to make me feel better about it than increase any potential learning by my dogs, I do recognize that leftover prime rib ranks much higher than Cheerios.
The classic stand-bys of string cheese and hot dogs may be viewed as boring by the gourmands among us but I’m not sure my dogs have ever met food they thought was boring. Like any reward, it’s what the dog thinks that counts.