Ok let’s face it – a lot of what we ask of our dogs to do isn’t that fun! Think about it, what dog actually wants to stay still or bring us back the dead thing they are eating? None. That’s right absolutely no dog ever wants to stop having fun and listen to us.
The only way you’re going to have a well behaved dog that listens if there’s a motivation to do so. Motivation can be something good or something bad. But because we want a strong bond with our dog and to reduce the chance of our dog having a negative association we use a good motivator (something the dog enjoys) also known as positive reinforcement.
I often see owners who are frustrated that their dog doesn’t recall or doesn’t respond when they say sit. They often have one thing in common – they have failed to motivate the dog and achieve focus. And yes I understand the struggle because sometimes it’s hard to convince my own dogs that what I’d like them to do is fun too. I work really hard everyday to motivate my dogs. I cheer them on for chasing a disc, I give them treats for coming when called and I definitely make a big deal if they respond to any cue I give them. This goes for ALL my dogs from the youngest to the oldest. They all need to be motivated.
Here are some tips to help you with motivating your dog:
- Stop using food bowls and put those meals to work. Kibble can be a great training tool when your dog is hungry so stop giving it away for free and practice some loose leash walking or stays with your kibble.
- Teach your dog to play WITH you. Tug is one of my all time favourites and contrary to the popular belief tugging with your dog does not create aggression. Playing tug increases the dog’s focus on you and engages them for a period of time that is to be determined by you. Keep your energy high and really play!
- Reward fetch with another toy to chase! If you want to increase speed and retrieve then use at least 2 toys when playing fetch. There’s no need to grab one from your dog just throw the next one. This will bring your dog back faster and also quicken that drop cue.
- Train for short periods of time. Training sessions should 3-5 minutes and you can do them throughout the day or evening. Some chunks broken up by play time are the ideal way to train.
- Keep your energy up! I’m usually exhausted when I’m done even a 3-5 min session of disc with my puppy – why? Because I’m the world’s most excited cheerleader for her every time she looks at the disc, chases the disc, touches the disc with her mouth or brings the disc to me. It’s hard work! And you know what her excitement for the task goes up too. If you’re feeling low avoid training that day. Your dog needs you to be joyful too. I find teaching tricks as well as obedience works helps keep you excited about the task.
Now get out there and be motivating!