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How To Motivate Your Dog

I read a fascinating article by leading psychology professor Barry Schwartz as I was researching this blog post. It was called “why work?” and is based on his TED talk “The way we think about work is broken” which was featured on the non-profit’s TED (Technology Entertainment and Design Conference) website last year.


It actually made me wonder about what motivates us to get up every morning.


There is no way for me to know what exactly it is that motivates you to get up. Each person’s motivation is personal to them. Though I can probably have a good guess at what yours is likely to be.


The one single thing that, for most of us, will play a big part in our motivation is that we need to make money. Money helps us to afford the finer things that make our lives worth living.


The wages we get as a reward for doing our job is an excellent motivator for most of us.


It should not surprise you that dogs are a lot like humans.

Dogs need proper motivation too. They need us to reward them for doing the things we ask of them.


It is our job as their teacher, parent figure or owner to find the things they find motivating and rewarding. This will then help us to influence and shape their behaviour.


The easiest way to motivate your dog and to help us shape her behaviour is by making sure that we reward her for doing the things we want to see more of.


By rewarding your dog more, she will become more motivated to choose those behaviours that we want her to learn.


Now you might be wondering “how do I find out what motivates my dog and what reward will she be willing to work for?”


Well, the obvious answer is to ask your dog!


And that is precisely what you should be doing.


You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out what motivates her, and which rewards work best, but there are a few simple tests that you can do to find out what makes your dog tick.


You will already know if your dog likes food, and I am here to tell you that all healthy dogs love to eat. If your dog doesn’t appear to be interested in food, then either you are not using the right foodstuffs, or your dog simply isn’t hungry.


The only thing we need to figure out is what her favourite and least favourite foods are so that we can start using them to our advantage!


This is extremely easy to do. All you need to do is cobble together a suitable selection of different foods from your store cupboard and fridge. Then ask your dog which food items she prefers.


The simplest way to do this is to offer your dog two different treats, hide one in each hand and let your dog sniff both hands and then make her choose which treat she wants. Reward her by opening the hand she indicated, letting her eat the contents. Write down the results.


It is good to note that there are other things you can use to reward your dog. You can also use toys, verbal praise, scratches behind her ears or a cuddle. Even offering her a drink can be rewarding, if that is what she desires most at that particular point in time.


One thing I must tell you about rewards is how much your dog desires the reward we are offering depends on the level of distractions present at that particular time.


If there are a lot of distractions, your dog will need a more exciting and higher value reward.


Finding what motivates your dog is one of the subjects I talk about in my new book 'No Pulling Allowed'. The Kindle book is now available for pre-order from Amazon or you can grab a signed paperback copy from me by heading over to www.nopullingallowed.co.uk. The release date has now been confirmed as the 30th June 2019.



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