Positive Reinforcement Dog Training Tips
Successfully Motivating Your Dog or Puppy
Excerpt from Proactive Puppy Care: Preventing Puppy Problems.
Motivation is the first order of business! Well, maybe after good management skills. No motivation=no training. Keeping your dog’s training enjoyable is the best way for your dog to learn. You want your training to be a fun and engaging experience so that you and your dog look forward to your lessons.
A good motivator is something your dog really looks forward to. If you are using a toy as a motivator, it should not be a toy your dog has unlimited access to. If he can get that toy anytime he wishes, why would he work for it? A great food motivator is when you see your dog’s eyes light up when you give him the treat. Something he would do flip-flops to get.
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When working with your dog, you will need a wide range of motivators. You will be teaching your dog “expensive behaviors” and “inexpensive behaviors.” An inexpensive behavior is something relatively easy for your dog, and you would use a lower-ranked motivator. If you want your dog to do something difficult, it is an expensive behavior, and you would want something extra-special and exciting.
Often dog parents are worried about using food or toys in training, thinking they will only respond if the motivators are present. If used correctly, rewards are like a “paycheck” to the dog. The idea is for you to make rewards only available in return for good behavior or when counter-conditioning a potentially fearful situation. Your dog needs to learn to work for a living; only then will he be motivated to work for you.
Throughout my pet blog, you will see the common phrase “give him a treat” during various situations and training exercises. These treats are going to be part of your dog’s daily caloric intake. No dog food bowls are necessary for eating; your dog will eat his food calories throughout the day for life lessons.
Calories are very important when using food as a reward. Remember your dog is going to eat his calories during daily dog training lessons. Toss those food calories into the pockets of all family members who are interacting with your dog. If your dog will work for his food for inexpensive behaviors such as butt on the ground, these make excellent rewards. You can use cooked meats for expensive behaviors such as walking on a leash or coming when called. Calculate the meat calories into his daily calories. Dogs eat meat, so eating these necessary meat calories as whole foods in training can replace a portion of the dry kibble calories (if feeding dry).
Will my dog always need food for the rest of his life?
Well, yes he will always need food to survive. How you choose to use those food calories is up to you. When your dog has learned a new behavior and developed a good habit, you will be able to fade how often you reward that behavior. However, just like a sport, he should practice any behaviors you want to keep regularly and should be occasionally rewarded for them to keep them strong. Dogs are very intelligent animals and love to be active and learn in a positive environment. Therefore, it is important to keep challenging your dog throughout his life by teaching him new skills, games, behaviors and increasing the difficulty level of a task. When you do this, you are going to be rewarding that new skill set, and once again increasing the bond you have with your dog.
Do you enjoy training with your dog? Tell me in the comments.
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