Training + Motivation

It Takes Training AND Motivation

Roberta Press, Lead Trainer, CPDT-KA

PortfolioTo 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!

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