Dog Motivation and How To Find It
Dog training is all about dog motivation in my opinion. How can I motivate a dog to do what I want and what I do not want? I feel that dog training is finding your dogs motivation and using it to your advantage. Dog motivation can be many different things and it is different for every dog. Just like humans, no two dogs are exactly alike. Fortunately, the majority of dogs are motivated by food, toys, praise, or a combination.
Finding your dogs motivation
Some people already know what motivates their dog. It is obvious. Others have no idea. Luckily it is not too hard to figure out. Most dogs with prey drive will do just about anything for a ball. If your dog wants to chase any fast moving object such as a lizard, squirrel, cat, etc… your dog is likely motivated with by a toy (ball/tug).
If you feel that you can put food down at any part of the day and your dog will gobble it up, guess what… Your dog is likely food motivated! Can your dog never have enough affection? When you stop petting your dog, they will nuzzle their head into your hand or lift up your paw as to say, “Keep petting me please, I didn’t tell you to stop”. If this sounds like familiar, affection will be your dog’s motivation.
Now, when I train client dogs, I try to use their daily kibble as motivation. It works great for some dogs, and not so great for others. Using food is an awesome way to train IF it works for you! Its quick and you get a lot more repetition in as opposed to using a toy. You can build food drive up in a dog by cutting down their portion size until they are eager to train for their daily kibble. It takes dogs time to catch on and really buy into that program. Although, nothing beats using your dog’s natural motivation.
I found my dogs motivation, now what?
So you found what motivates your dog… it doesn’t do you any good until you put it to use! Use that motivation to your advantage. It doesn’t matter whether your dog is motivated by food, toys, or praise, what matters is how they get those things.
If your dog knows the food gets put down twice a day no matter what, why would they work for it when they can wait awhile and get it for free? If you are leaving toys around the house or just giving your dog a ball to play with as he pleases, why would he work any harder for it when you want him to? If you’re always petting, praising, and showing affection towards your dog; they are most likely taking it for granted. Use all of these things to your advantage by not giving it away for free.
Once you begin to leverage your dog’s motivation in return for training, you will quickly begin to see your dog looking at you in a different light. You become the distributor of their resources.