While writing my last post about value building in Crate Games I was reminded of a post I answered about using a food toy such as the Tug It toy or other container with food in it. One reader on a forum asked;
Why not just throw the toy on the reward line and then treat from your pocket when she comes back with it? It sure is easier than dealing with a treat bag?
Here was my response;
It is all about value . . . what is and isn’t valuable to an animal and how to get what I refer to as the “transfer of value” from the reward to the work.
How many people readying this, if you were walking to their car with your arms full holding grocery bags and saw a single penny on the ground would go to the effort of bending down to see if it was really only a penny or possibly something more? I would guess less than 1% of us would bother checking out the penny (perhaps the odd person that had superstitious reason for doing it), but from a “relative value to you” point of view, it is very likely we all would just keep walking with your arms full of groceries.
Now what if your arms were still full holding groceries and you saw a roll of $100 bills lying in the street? Would you then go to the effort of adjusting your load so you could pick that up? I would think the vast majority of us would do so, possibly 99.9%? Even if you were a billionaire and the roll of hundreds were “chump change” to you, you would still likely pick it up. Why? Because even if you are wealthy money would carry great value.
So why go to the effort to reward from the throw toy? Currently your dog has tons of value for food and the food comes from you so when you are training the dog holding food you have tons of value– you are the roll of hundreds.
If you throw a toy (which the dog has no value for — it is a penny) the dog may investigate the roll the first time you throw it but quickly recognizing nothing of value comes from it (ie the food only comes from you) the dog would quickly stop noticing you throwing the valueless item and just stare at you to feed them.
Training becomes more than a little difficult in this scenario.
Today I am grateful to be on my way back home — gearing up for antics of our upcoming puppy camp!