Roberta Press, Lead Trainer, CPDT-KA
To have an obedient, well-mannered dog, you need two things: First you need to TRAIN your dog, teach them what you want them to do. And second you need to MOTIVATE your dog, so they have a reason to do the things you ask.
As professional dog trainers we’re often asked, “But shouldn’t my dog do it just because I asked him to?”
I wish this were true. But like any living, breathing individual, your dog has their own drives and motivations which will frequently conflict with your desires.
I have a fourteen-year-old daughter. I’d love to think that she would clean up her stuff, and do chores around the house, and maybe even prepare a meal, just because that’s the polite, collaborative, family-oriented thing to do. But in reality, her desire (her drive and motivation) is to get on her phone to text her friends. She has no desire or motivation to clean or cook!
So I motivate her in the following way: If she looks up from her phone and asks me if she can meet her friends at the mall, I might tell her, “Yes, after you’ve cleaned up your stuff in the living room”.
So she gets what she wants (going to the mall with her friends), when I get what I want (her to clean up her stuff).
It’s the same with our dogs.
My dogs want to go sniff that bush as we’re walking down the street? I’ll let them do so only if they can first leash walk nicely at my side without pulling.
My dogs want to go greet that person? They get to do so only if they are not jumping up, but rather sitting politely.
My dogs want to go off leash and play in the park? I’ll release them only if they can focus on me first, and maybe complete a little recall.
My dogs want some of the snack I’m eating? I’ll give them a taste only if they’re lying on their mats.
And so on.
First I need to teach my dogs these behaviours – leash walking at my side without pulling, sitting to greet a person, coming back to me when I call, and settling on their mats. Now that they’re trained, my next job is motivation, using the things that they want to get what I want.
If my dog pulls, she doesn’t get to sniff the bush but we walk right past instead. If my dog pesters me while I’m eating, she gets nothing and meanwhile the dog who isn’t mugging me, who’s lying nicely on her mat instead, will get the treat instead.
Training plus motivation – the two keys to having a well-behaved dog!