The best dog training tip I ever heard wasn’t from an expert on TV. It wasn’t about what commands to use, whether to use hand signals or clickers, or about asserting your dominance.
It was all about finding the right motivation.
The best dog training tip I ever heard said that there are 3 main motivators for any dog. The key to training your dog is to find the right motivator and use that in training. Can you guess what the 3 motivators are?
Food. Love. Fear. The trick is to find the one that motivates your dog the most.
Food: Big dogs love to eat. Most get more excited by dinner and treats than anything else. When they do well in training, reward them with treats. No treats if they do something wrong.
Love: Some dogs want your love and attention more than anything else. With them, praise is the ultimate reward. For good behavior, use your high cooing voice, pet them, tell them what a good dog they are. Ignoring them, even for just a few minutes, is the worst fate they can imagine.
Fear: Not all dogs are motivated so strongly by food or love. For these, the fear of punishment is the way to go. We’re not advocating corporal punishment here. Punishment can be as simple as a loud, low “bad dog” or “no.” Never physically punish your dog. Fear for their physical safety, which comes from being hit, leads to a whole other list of behavioral problems. Also keep in mind that this technique is only effective if you’ve caught them in the act. Negative reinforcement after the act may cause a dog to think whatever it was up to at that time was the frowned upon behavior.
Once you’ve identified which of these works for your dog, you know how to reward or punish a particular behavior. You can use these motivators in training commands, housebreaking and other behavioral issues. Pay attention to the motivators of each of the dogs in your pack. You would be very lucky if all of your dogs responded to the same motivator.
Have you used this? How has it worked for you? Let us know!
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Photo by dalehugo on Flickr and used with Creative Commons license.