Do You Think Your Dog Prefers Praise or a Treat?

Pedey will take praise (and a belly rub) over a treat any day.
Photo by Phil Monahan

Anyone who has ever tried to train a dog to sit, stay, or come knows that positive reinforcement is the key to the whole process. For some dog lovers, a handful of small treats serves as a good reward for each direction followed, while others focus on praise alone: “Good dog!” Now researchers are looking at which of the rewards is actually preferred by the dog:

“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it’s mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University and lead author of the research. “Out of the 13 dogs that completed the study, we found that most of them either preferred praise from their owners over food, or they appeared to like both equally. Only two of the dogs were real chowhounds, showing a strong preference for the food.”

Those of you who have food-motivated dogs might find this a little hard to believe, but it make sense to me. My boy, Pedey (above), is the kind of pup who often doesn’t finish a meal, choosing instead to graze over the course of a few hours. And, man, does he enjoy a good tummy rub.

What about your dog? Which side of this debate do you think that he or she falls on? The linked article offers some fascinating insights on the topic that might change the way you interact with your best friend.

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