July 25, 2022

#19 - Kathy Sdao: Food Motivation Myths

In this interview episode, we are joined by Kathy Sdao, an applied animal behaviorist to discuss an always popular topic, food motivation. Food motivation is a term that comes up a lot when folks are talking about training their pets. While all individuals are intrinsically motivated by food, because they have to eat to survive, it can get a little more complicated when we’re talking about the behavior of reliably eating, which is usually what many folks are really referring to when talking about food motivation. And not reliably eating, can lead to some sticky situations. 

You’ll hear Emily and Kathy discuss: 

  • Being a detective when your pet doesn’t eat, because it’s a behavioral emergency
  • Why the back of your pet food bag probably isn’t an accurate recommendation for how much food your pet should eat
  • How you can create aversions to food, doing things that people very commonly do

Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Meet the Guest

Kathy Sdao, M.A.

Kathy Sdao is an applied animal behaviorist. She’s been a full-time animal trainer for thirty-five years, first with marine mammals and now with dogs. At the University of Hawaii, she earned a master’s degree as part of a research team which trained dolphins to understand sign-language. She then worked for the United States Navy training dolphins for open-ocean military tasks. Kathy also worked as a marine-mammal trainer at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium in Tacoma Washington. After leaving the zoo world, she co-created Tacoma’s first dog-daycare. 


Kathy launched Bright Spot Dog Training in 1998. Services include consulting with families about their challenging dogs and mentoring professional trainers who want to maximize the power of positive-reinforcement training. Kathy is proud to be an original faculty member for Karen Pryor’s ClickerExpos; she’s taught at forty-one of these popular conferences. Kathy has lectured at venues across the United States, Canada and Europe, and in Australia, Israel, Japan and Mexico. In 2012, she published her first book, Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace.

Meet the Hosts

Allie pic with Oso

Allie Bender, CDBC, CPDT-KA, SBA

Allie Bender is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed, and a Shelter Behavior Affiliate. She has been in the animal welfare industry since 2006 and professionally training since 2012. She is the founder and co-owner of Pet Harmony, co-author of Canine Enrichment for the Real World, and a national speaker.

While in the animal sheltering industry, Allie realized that her passion lied in helping pets with maladaptive behaviors. Specifically, she wanted to help prevent animals with rehabilitatable problems from being euthanized. She loves working with dogs and cats displaying stranger danger, resource guarding, and leash reactivity. Her favorite thing about working with pets and their people is seeing relationships grow and seeing harmonious households develop.


Emily Strong, CDBC, SBA

Emily Strong is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and Shelter Behavior Affiliate. She has been in the animal welfare industry since 1990 and has been a behavior consultant since 2008. She is the co-owner of Pet Harmony, co-author of Canine Enrichment for the Real World, and a national speaker. 

Emily started working with animals at a young age and struggled with the notion that you have to hurt, scare, or intimidate animals to help them. When she discovered the behavior sciences and learned that it wasn’t necessary to do so– that we can care for emotional, mental, and physical health simultaneously– she plunged headfirst into animal behavior. Emily loves helping current and prospective behavior professionals and working with pet parents through our in-depth services. She enjoys working with all species.

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