Do Dogs Prefer Food or Praise as a Reward?

In an attempt to further understand the human-animal bond, researchers investigated whether or not dogs prefer praise or food from their owners. Surprisingly most of the dogs preferred praise or praise and food equally. Two of the dogs were chow-hounds and preferred food.

While 13 subjects are not a fair sampling, especially when one considers the personality differences in breeds and even within the same breed, the study does shed some possibilities for consideration.

Most trainers, behavior consultants and handlers of working or sport dogs can tell you about individual dogs who are not food motivated. The people who try to work with these dogs have to find another way to motivate them. Fortunately, most dogs will work for both praise and food, making it easier to motivate them in training situations.

Food is still a great way to train a dog, especially when coupled with clicker training. But for those dogs who are not food motivated, a pat on the head or verbal praise is just as good. When using food, it is always best to wean the dog off of the food once he has learned the exercise and save the special treat for new exercises.

Studies such as this one are great because they open minds and possibilities for future studies. The research team in this case want to explore how dogs process and understand human language.


Bab’s — Praise Motivated


Riley — Food Motivated and laughing about it!

2 thoughts on “Do Dogs Prefer Food or Praise as a Reward?

  1. Agree with the point about working dogs not often being motivated by food.

    Every dog is different though and what works for one doesn’t for others. It’s a case of finding each dog’s little likes and dislikes and tapping into what they love and using it to find the perfect motivator.

    My youngest (Border Collie) will do absolutely anything if there’s a tennis ball involved.

    Have seen her abandon a full bowl of food and ditch warm freshly cooked chicken in favour of a tennis ball because in her world – food can wait.

    Tennis balls never wait.


  2. Yes I have seen the same thing. Dogs are no different than people in many ways, including likes and dislikes. Thanks for the comment.


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