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The effective and quick assessment of food preference is important when attempting to identify foods that might function as effective reinforcers in dogs. In the current experiment a food preference assessment was conducted where more highly preferred foods were expected to be associated with faster approaches in a subsequent runway task. Eight dogs were tested in a paired preference assessment offering combinations of two of six types of raw food, including the dog’s staple diet, to identify a rank order of preference for the foods. A different raw food was offered as the staple in two preference tests. The results showed that the staple foods were not preferred as highly as the other foods and that each dog displayed unique and stable preferences for the different foods. In the runway task the dogs were required to walk five metres to obtain a small amount of their most preferred, least preferred or staple foods and latency of approach to the foods was recorded. The approach latencies were faster for their most preferred food compared to their least preferred and the staple foods. The use of a runway to assess reinforcer effectiveness combined an effortful behaviour to obtain food while also requiring the dogs to make a choice, thus precluding the need for more complicated and time-consuming methods of preference assessment. The application of this method for fast and effective identification of preferred reinforcers is currently being investigating further to inform pet owners of simple methods to increase their training successes. Owners of raw food fed dogs are advised to conduct a preference assessment to identify their dogs most preferred food for use as a reinforcer during training.
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