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Are Your Dogs On the Payroll? Motivation in Dog Training!

The Power of Motivation in Dog Training
The Power of Motivation in Dog Training

Did you go to work today? Did you do it for free? Highly doubtful. People generally go to work because they have to in order to gain financial security. Ask anyone if they would work for free and it is very likely the answer would be no. So, why do owners expect their dogs to do everything for free? Why are dogs expected to do things “because the owner says so?" Once an owner starts accepting the fact that a dog needs motivation in order to learn and to perform desired behaviors, the dog and the owner become much less frustrated.
Many behavior issues stem from the fact that an owner is expecting a dog to sit or come on cue not realizing the squirrel-chasing or poop-rolling is way more motivating and exciting to Rover! Dogs, when asked to do something, are thinking basically, “What’s in it for me?” Owners need to show them exactly what is in it for them. Will you be bribing your dog? Absolutely not! What your dog needs to clearly understand is that you, the owner, have control of absolutely everything they want, be it food, toys, belly rubs, lying on the couch, and a myriad of other desirables. Professional Ideas On Motivation In Dog Training

The next time your dog wants to play with you, don’t simply get a toy and start playing. Have them sit first. If it’s tug, don’t let them just lunge at you and grab the toy to start the game. Teach them to wait until you say “take it!” The game immediately becomes motivation for the behavior you are asking. When your dog gets fed, have them sit and stay. Walk away with the bowl and then return and only place the bowl down if a stay was accomplished. Their food is the motivation to perform the behaviors. This is exactly how behaviors you desire will become stronger and stronger over time. Many dogs receive basically everything for free when just some simple changes in the owner’s approach would lead to a “good” dog instead of the dreaded “bad” dog syndrome.

Now, there are different types of motivation that can be labeled as high-risk and low-risk. If a dog does not properly walk on a leash, many owners will quickly run to the nearest Petco and buy a painful prong collar, choke collar, or even worse, a shock collar. “This will make him slow down!” For some dogs, it might, but some dogs will tolerate the pain because what is being pulled toward is much more motivating than pain. This type is what could be called high-risk motivation. It is labeled high-risk because although the dog may slow down a little bit, any pull will cause pain in the throat and neck. If a dog sees another dog, for example, while pulling on one of these collars, there is pain involved. The dog begins to learn that whenever a dog is around, pain occurs. Over time, dogs are seen as a bringer of pain, so to speak, and aggression can start to develop. The dog, in order to avoid feeling prongs in the neck, must keep that bringer of pain away at all costs. The dog’s own safety is key at this point. In an attempt to keep that horrible monster across the street from causing more pain, increased lunging, barking, and a multitude of other side effects can develop from this type of motivation, hence the high-risk title.

Low-risk motivation is much more fun for the dog, will not create other issues, and will keep the dog’s personality intact. Many dogs after being shocked or choked will start to realize they can’t react and must hide emotions because it causes pain on leash. This can truly start to deaden a dog’s personality. Low risk motivation would be using high value food, such as chicken or hamburger, to keep the dog’s focus on you during the walk. Performing attention-getting exercises by saying the dog’s name and rewarding for each time eye contact is made works very well. Teaching your dog a strong “watch” cue can also be helpful. These will all help the issue over time and will retain a happy dog (and owner!).

When owners take a dog into the home, remember that dog needs a job to do and becomes part of the payroll. Provide motivation for everything they are doing. They must come to know that sit=playtime, stay=dinnertime, and on and on. The more you motivate your dog, the more they will start to exhibit behavior that will make for a much happier owner.