Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Importance of Motivation

Last night my Adventure Dog class got to see how much MOTIVATION matters in dog training (well really in training anyone including people). I'd love to say that this one type of treat works for every dog in every situation but of course motivation is based on individual preferance, environmental context and of course other factors such as whether your dog is full, tired, thirsty, etc.

When working with your dog try to have a few different types of reinforcers with you. I generally bring some kibble, some higher value treats (Zuke's Minis, Rollover, Dried Liver, Drive Tripe), a ball (Chuck It ball works great), tug toy (Skinneezz work great too especially the rabbit for some reason) and of course my own happy energy level. It's also a good idea to make water available as a thirsty dog really isn't too interested in much else at that point. 

Using the right reinforcer can change your entire training session. It can make the difference between a distracted dog that won't listen and a star student. Make reinforcement random so your dog doesn't get bored (or worse expectant) and change it up.

You can make yourself the reward by teaching your dog hand targets, tricks that he/she loves to preform, praise, petting, running with your pup and more. Having a good attitude and energy level will keep your dog happily working for you. Sometimes patience is hard to find and that's when I would end a training session.

Keep training sessions short with lots of breaks for play and running. This keeps your dog interested and wanting to work. If I do a down stay for 3 minutes and then reward my dog he's going to want to do it again even if it's sometimes boring like a down stay BUT we'll generally do something else first to keep the energy and enthusiasm up. This will allow you to train anywhere and without food and toys once your dog gets it.

I worked with aussies Tank and Marco during an off leash walk last night surronded by other dogs. We practiced 1 down stay, 1 sit stay, 1 off leash heeling (just Marco), 2 left finishes and 1 front. All for the chance to run around with me and jump in the air for hand targets. I kept it fun and they were attentive as a result. They were able to do this surronded by a million fun things like dogs, people, smelling, squirrels and it didn't matter because the training session was fun not arduous.

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