When working on establishing healthy behaviors or training skills it is critical that you discover what motivates your dog. Whether if you’re starting out with your very first dog, a new puppy, or you’ve had your dog for years – every dog is different! This can make it challenging to know exactly where to start when it comes to finding that one thing that makes Fido driven to do whatever task you ask of him.
So, let me break it down and make it as efficient as possible for you so you can start working with your dog today on new tricks or that terrible habit you can’t quite break.
The Three Main Motivators
There are three main motivators for your dog when it comes to training. Food, toys, and affection. While your dog may enjoy all these things on an individual level, there is a very distinct order in which they prefer them. So, how do you distinguish the order? It all depends.
When exploring all the possibilities for what motivates your dog, you will want to gauge how your dog reacts in certain scenarios. Below is a list of questions and answers that will help you start to understand what might spark drive and motivation in your dog:
1. When given the opportunity to greet new people, does your dog jump for joy, shy away, or not really care at all?
A) Praise Driven:
Your dog LOVES meeting anyone and everyone and can’t get enough pets.
B) Non-Praise Driven:
Your dog shies away or couldn’t care either way when meeting others.
2. When given the opportunity to take a treat from you or a stranger, does your dog seem to only care about the food, the pets that come after the food, just the pets, or both?
A) Food Driven:
Your dog will take advantage if any situation that involves food but doesn’t care how he gets it (pets or no pets).
B) Praise Driven:
Your dog takes or doesn’t take the treat, but is more excited by the fact that you or someone else is there to give them love!
C) Food and Praise Driven:
Your dog enjoys both the food and praise and would take either gladly.
3. When given the opportunity to take a toy or get affection, your dog takes the toy over the love any day!
A) Toy Driven:
Your dog would gladly take the toy and leave the love behind!
B) Praise Driven:
Your dog LOVES affection from anyone and everyone and can’t get enough pets.
C) Toy and Food Driven:
Your dog is happy to take the toy and get all the pets that come along afterwards.
4. When given the opportunity to take a treat over playing with a toy, does your dog drop the toy and go for the food? Or, ignore the treat and keep playing?
A) Food Driven:
Your dog would gladly spit out his favorite ball and eat as many treats as you give him.
B) Toy Driven:
Your dog could care less if you’re holding bacon and would rather you play fetch with him
So, based on these questions and answers, I bet you are starting to get a feel for what is most motivating to your dog. And, now that you have that gauge, I want to share with you how you can use this motivator to work on breaking bad habits with your dog, or simply start using them to work on training!
Utilizing Your Dog’s Motivator
For My Food Driven Pups:
Your dog loves food and will do anything for it. What next? Well, I’ll tell you. Not all food is created equal in the eyes of your dog. You will need to find two different types of treats. High value treats for new and hard tasks and treats your dog will love whenever for whatever.
The high value treats will be something your dog would do anything for- even in more distracting or demanding situations. They will give you every trick in the book just to have that one treat. For my dog, that’s freeze-dried Green Lipped Mussels or Green Tripe.
The typically “everyday” treat your dog would enjoy and do a trick for either way would be something to get your dog’s attention and will keep their focus when needed. For my dog, this is Freeze-dried Bison Lung.
For My Toy Driven Pups:
Your dog will do anything for that ball. His focus us yours as long as you’re holding his favorite toy. The next step is figuring out what toy will hold his attention in all situation: at home, on a W-A-L-K, around other dogs – you name it. This could be a squeaker toy, tennis ball, plush toy, rope, etc. You’ll want to do some testing in each scenario in order to discover what toy sparks the most motivation in your pup!
For My Praise Driven Pups:
This one is simple. Your dog loves getting love! In this case, you’ll want to give your dog the three forms or praise when they’ve accomplished a task you’ve asked of them. Visual, verbal, and physical attention. Meaning that the second your dog sits when you ask him to, you’re giving him eye contact, a “good boy!!!”, and a pat on the head. During tasks that require constant focus from your dog, you’ll want to give consistent verbal affirmations along the way,so he knows that he’s on the right track!
So, when it comes to working on healthy behaviors or training skills with your dog, remember these three main motivators: food, toys, and praise. Discover which one generates the most undivided attention from your dog and run with it! I hope that this information has helped to bring your training to a new level with your dog or has helped shed some much–needed light on where to begin when it comes to getting your dog’s attention.