What's your dog willing to work for? Getting creative in motivating and rewarding your fur kid!

What's your dog willing to work for? Getting creative in motivating and rewarding your fur kid!
June 23, 2010 by Colleen Safford
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Truth be told, like us, dogs are not keen on working without some form of pay. You can say, “ but dogs have a strong desire to please,” all you want. Time and again though, science, research and studies show our "unconditionally" loving pooches like to collect the bacon!

 

As a dog trainer, one of the most important parts of my job is finding great motivators and reinforcers. Consistently reinforcing calm and desirable behaviour is the key to developing good pooch manners! Simply put, the more your dog receives pay or acknowledgement for the good things he does with the good things he LOVES, the better behaved your pooch will become!

So, what does your dog want to work for?!

Motivation for dogs comes in all sorts of packages. For most dogs, food is an excellent motivator. As stated in the summer issue of Modern Dog, “the fastest way to a dog’s brain is through his stomach.”

In taking on new training cases, one of the first things I work on with my clients is compiling a list of “My Dog’s Top Ten Favorite Things.” I run them through the dog’s day and ask them questions about their dog’s favorite foods, activities etc. We really get creative and take the time to think about what drives this particular dog! Not all dogs are built or bred equally and what excites some might fizzle with others.

Here’s an extreme example, but one that I absolutely love. A very well-known PhD and guru in Animal Behaviour uses a hamster (or gerbil?!) to motivate her dog! When her dog runs an awesome agility course, he earns access to a simple sniff (just a sniff!) of the little furry creature in her pocket! The gerbil (or was it a hamster?!) is part of the agility team.

I’m NOT suggesting that you run out and cage a squirrel, but just giving one example of the creativity that can go into reinforcing a dog’s good work! Talk about a dreamy doggy bonus!

Here is my dog Luna’s list!

1. Large Branches – not to be confused with wimpy sticks. LARGE BRANCHES to be tossed for fetch.

2. Raw Advantage – quite possibly the most stinky and best human grade dog treat to ever hit the market. A crumb sends her rocketing.

3. Squeaky toys! - The more disruptive and ear piercing, the better.

4. Access to a stranger to love them up - Luna is no stranger to strangers.

5. BALL! - Fresh, fuzzy, toxic, smelly tennis balls in particular.

6. Cuddly couch time! - “Here I am! Your 75lb lap dog. “

7. Dinner time! - “Gimme the goods and thank you for NOT attempting to cook it, Mom! “

8. Car rides! – “Can I go!?”

9. “Go get it!” - A release to “chase” something like a squirrel (this was trained and she has a great recall)

10. Walkies! - Enough said.

Remember, in order to develop a mannerly dog, your pooch should NOT get everything he wants for simply being the cutest thing that you have ever laid your eyes on. This is NOT about being strict or dominant. It’s about teaching your lovely little fur kid, that he or she can have (nearly) anything he wants in life, if he can offer nice calm behavior FIRST.

Figure out what your dog wants to work for! It’s the good pet parent thing to do! Your dog is begging you for a list (this is once place where i'll let begging slide).

Off to work myself! I need to bring home the bacon (for both of us!).

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Dog of the Week!

Meet: Charlotte