Many people expect their dog to learn with training, understandable. However, to really get the behaviors that you are expecting from your dog, you have to know what and how to motivate your dog.
There are many types of motivators. Do you really know what motivates your dog?
You have probably already thought of food as a motivator, which would be a good guess. Food is one of the most common ways for motivating a dog. Dogs love their treats and usually will respond well when treats are offered. In order to keep treats motivating, mix up what you use. Put a variety in a bag so your dog never knows what will be offered! Examples include cheese, hot dogs, chicken, and jerky.
Your attention, such as praise or petting, can mean the world to your dog. Most dogs enjoy making their owners happy, so be sure to show your pleasure with your dog’s efforts and responses. Make training fun and exciting. Avoid being overly serious during your training sessions. Show lots of enthusiasm and excitement. Give your dog applause when he shows effort or makes correct choices.
Does your dog have a favorite toy and a game of tug? Tugging is a great way to reward and maintain attention. Does your dog like to chase and run after things? Why not attach a string to a fuzzy toy and pull it around for your dog to chase. Depending on the dog, the toy might be even more of a motivation if it is not available 24/7. Keep toys put away and only take them out when you are training. The old adage “You always want what you can’t have!” is basically what you will be doing!
Know when to stop. After a period of time, any dog’s drive to work begins to drop. This typically happens faster with youngsters, but adult dogs can still lose motivation after an extended period of time. Find out when your dog starts getting distracted or bored, stops paying attention or doesn’t seem to give effort, and then stop training just before that point. You can go back to training after you have given him a little rest.
Once you learn how to motivate your dog, try to look beyond that as the only source of motivation. The more sources of motivation, the better! Switch up the motivational tools. Surprise your dog and keep him guessing what will come next. Some dogs become bored with the same rewards day after day, and their motivation to learn new commands may decrease if you don’t vary their rewards. The key to success revolves around making changes and making the training game fun!
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