For many of us, food (or words that refer to it, such as a cookie, um ums, hungry, treat, etc.) is is one of the first words that are modeled and taught. It can seem to be easy to do, because training "food" or "eat," at least at first, is almost indistinguishable from using food rewards to teach your learner to use the button in the first place.

Why it may be a good idea not to have a button for "food/eat"

Because so many dogs are highly food motivated, there is a strong argument to be made for not having a button that refers to treats or food be among your learner's first buttons. Many dogs are always interested in food, and so the "intensity" of the button's appeal could overwhelm a dog's interest in other buttons. Though Christina Hunger has a word for hungry, Stella is not highly food motivated, and Christina has never used food rewards part of teaching Stella to use her word board. By contrast, Alexis Devine has entirely avoided any such words in her word board set up.

If your dog’s progress had stalled when you included “food/eat,” experiment with removing it from the board.

Pairs well with WATER.

Meaning and uses

  • Hungry

  • Learner wants food in learner's dish or needs water refilled.

  • Hungry/need food, also possibly someone in the house is eating

  • When the learner wants what someone else is eating, or sees me grab my treat pouch, or if we're late for the learner's dinner

  • Sometimes used to ask for a toy filled with food

  • Learner want a treat.

  • Put food in her bowl.

Button sounds

  • hungry

  • eat

  • treat

  • food

  • cookie

  • um ums

  • "Sulten" (Norwegian)

Modeling techniques

Among our group of successful modelers, the following techniques were used:

  • I placed the button next to the refrigerator and pressed it every time they got food.

  • Pressed it every time before feeding. Modeled "love you eat" with treats and "eat play" with [a] food-filled toy

  • Trained with kibble - pushed button, fed a piece, encouraged him to push the button, and fed a piece when he did. Did a whole meal this way. Then pushed before feeding a normal meal while also verbalizing it in a sentence, encouraged him to push.

  • The repetition of the word worked well. It was having this be a word already frequently used. I made sure to say the word before and after pressing the button verbally. I kept it very exciting vocally.

  • I pressed it before saying the word, kept the button in a place where it could be stationary and not get knocked around in the excitement of dinner time.

  • Said to the learner: "Do you want to eat?" then pressed the button, then said eat again, then gave learner food. After two times of this, she pressed it herself with no coaxing.

  • Pressed button before meals

  • Pressed button, gave food to give the sound meaning as an antecedent

  • Pressed every time before feeding. Modeled "love you eat" with treats and "eat play" with food-filled toy

  • Pressed the button and encouraged her to press it at already established snack time each evening

  • Pressed the button immediately before putting food in the learner's bowl.

  • They received food immediately after pressing the button. I had to subsequently retrain only to use it for meals because the learner would ask for food all day.

  • Frequently asked the learner to "use his words," and each time learner did so learner would get a treat or a bit of food.

What seems to have worked well

Among our group of successful modelers, the following seemed to be helpful:

  • Having the button close to where the food was, and using it every time the learner got food.

  • Pressing it before saying the word, keeping the button in a place where it could be stationary and not get knocked around in the excitement of dinner time

  • Pressing button prior to filling dish, and prompted learner to press it before I picked up the dish by pointing at the button with my foot.

  • Tapping button with my own foot, standing in the way of an over-generalized button, and asked "what?", or said, "tell me what you want" while looking at the buttons.

  • Tossing one piece of kibble every time the learner hit the button.

  • Consistency

  • Pressing the button before the learner anticipated it or before the word was said.

  • Pressing the button before putting food in the learner's dish.

  • Not giving food until learner pressed the button

What didn't work or could have gotten in the way

Among our group of successful modelers, they avoided doing the following:

  • Saying the word before pressing the button

  • Using too many full sentences.

  • At first, pressuring the learner into talking to me.

  • Being impatient.

  • Learner used button non-stop to get food, which led to learner believing that every button should result in a treat or food.

  • She gets really excited about this word and at the same time every day so we had to be careful to get to the button and say the word before she had the opportunity to be extremely excited about it.

  • Using this button for treats.

  • Learner thinking that they could have a constant flow of food

  • Wanting learner to understand that there were multiple words that meant "food" (e.g. breakfast, dinner and eat) which we used all the time prior to training with buttons. This didn't seem to work so we stuck with only using the words on the buttons.