They say, ‘A way to a man’s heart is through his stomach’. And as it turns out, the same thing could be said about Man’s Best Friend!
A recent study conducted by psychologists at the University of Florida reveals that for nine out of 10 dogs, their beloved toys only come second when food is involved.
There is no doubt that most dogs love toys – they get to catch, shake, chew and cuddle with them. But the new study actually showed that most dogs respond better to food than toys.
For the study, the researchers recruited a total of 10 dogs. And they chose six food items and six toys that they think dogs generally love.
The six food items the researchers used were: hotdog, carrot, cheese, kibble, hard dog treat, and soft dog treat. As for the toys, the researchers chose: a ball, tug toy, squeak toy, bone, stuffed animal, and an empty plastic water bottle.
Each dog had to choose a favorite toy and food among the choices presented by the researchers.
A series of other experiments were also conducted. In these subsequent experiments, the dogs had to work harder for their reward.
During these experiments, most dogs gave up earlier when they were offered their favorite toy reward, but were motivated when offered their preferred food reward.
The study concluded that dogs prefer food over toys and that food is a more effective reinforcer for dog behavior compared to toys.
The authors of the study also wrote, “These findings have important implications for dog owners and trainers, suggesting that using food as a reinforcer may yield better results in training dogs.”
Some dog trainers suggest using toys over food as part of training to avoid excess calories and to make the experience more mentally stimulating for dogs.
So, the researchers suggest that if dog owners will follow this advice, the key is to not have toys compete with food.
Dr. Nicole Dorey, lead author of the study and a lecturer at the University of Florida’s Department of Psychology, told the University of Florida News, “I was surprised, but nobody’s looked at how dogs will work for toys versus food before.”
While studies about dogs’ preference regarding hooman attention versus food have been conducted in the past, this study was a first of its kind.
“I think the next study should look at all three – attention, food, and toys – and what dogs really like best when training,” Dorey said.