Motivation is key to getting your dog to understand what you want. It is also for your dog to enjoy wanting to do it as well. While the most common method of motivating our pets is through treats, motivation can come in many forms. This is great for the dog that isn’t motivated by food, or for owners who wish to show appreciation in other ways. Learn about the types of motivation, and see which works best for your family.
Types of Motivators
There are three main types of motivator: food, toys, and praise.
Food: Food is the most commonly used motivator. It can be in the form of a favorite treat, a piece of “people” food, or even bits of kibble. These can be used immediately after success with a command or trick, or can be placed into a puzzle toy to help alleviate boredom and increase focus. One downside of using treats as a motivator is that it increases your dog’s overall caloric intake. In dogs prone to gaining weight it can be an issue. It is recommended to decrease a portion of your dog’s meal on days you use treats to train with in order to keep him healthy.
Toys: Toys are another commonly used motivator. You may have seen your local police dog or sporting dog competition use a tug toy as a reward after a successful exercise. Toys are great for dogs that are driven by play, and enjoy games such as tug of war or fetch. Toys are also a great way to relieve boredom, encourage exercise and prevent weight gain. For a dog that isn’t into food, a toy such as a tennis ball may be a great alternative.
Praise: Praise should always be given no matter what, but for some dogs it may be their main motivating factor. Your dog may not be driven by toys or treats, as is the case with some rescues that may have had limited human contact. Praising your dog can include speaking in a happy voice, offering pets and cuddles after a successful training session, or just spending time together.
Times Your Dog is Motivated
Finding the times when your dog is most likely to be motivated is also important to successful training. Dogs that are treat motivated may be more likely to respond before breakfast or dinner, when they are hungry. A toy motivated dog may be more responsive if he feeling antsy or in need of exercise. Trying out different times for your training sessions can help you find when your dog is most likely to respond.
Even if your dog seems to get easily distracted, or doesn’t seem motivated, don’t despair. Short training sessions of five to ten minutes, trying out different times to train during the day, and using different motivators can help. If you’re having trouble, speaking with a dog trainer is useful. Over time, you can figure out what gets your dog ticking, and help the both of you become a success!
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