Comparing demand and preference assessments for food products in dogs
Wyant, Rachel L.
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Canine food preference is commonly measured using two-bowl and one-pan tests. These methods measure preference in a free-choice format. Free-choice, however, can be a poor measure of reward value. The aim of this study was to compare and contrast typical free-choice based methods of food preference to recently developed behavioral economic models of reward value to see how preference and reward value measures relate. Ten dogs were tested on a demand assessment and a preference assessment. Four food products were used, with the subjects tested first on the demand assessment, followed by a two-bowl device for the preference assessment. Dog responding in the demand assessment on a lever was evaluated on a fixed ratio schedule (FR 1, FR 2, FR 5, FR 10, FR 20). Comparing the results of the demand assessment to the preference assessment, the dogs’ preferences are more clearly defined in the latter. The preference assessment identified differences both across food category and within category, the value of the products, as measured by demand, revealed only differences in product type, but not statistically significant differences within type. Measuring canine food preferences is important for measuring flavor and palatability. Not only is it important for the pet food industry, this information is valuable in identifying appropriate reinforcers for training. The applications of this study could have benefits for both pet food companies and trainers.