Who doesn’t love a sweet little fur baby? They’re fuzzy, cuddly and cute. But sometimes their behavior is … less than desirable. It can be frustrating to have a disobedient dog — it can put a strain on your relationship and even on other parts of your life. So before you throw in the towel or get too upset, let’s take a look at the things that drive your dog’s behavior.
The Three Big Motivators
Thankfully, our canine companions are (relatively) a lot more simple than us. There are three main things that motivate them to do what we want — or convince them to stop doing something.
This is the first and most obvious choice to convince your pup to be polite. But using food too often can create a system in which your dog might only want to obey if food is part of the deal. Just remember: food is a treat, not a bribe.
Much like people, dogs all have their own personalities and preferences. Some dogs will respond more to toys than treats — especially a cherished stuffed animal they’ve had since they were a puppy
Showing your dog attention can come in a couple different forms. You could praise them with a “marker word” such as “good” or “yes” whenever they do something right. Simply playing with them could also serve as a nice reward. That one-on-one interaction can also help create a stronger bond between you and your pup.
Two Important Things to Keep in Mind
Before you even start training your dog with these motivators, you need to understand two very important factors that make the whole thing work: timing and consistency. Dogs’ attention spans are incredibly short, so if you don’t reward them immediately, they won’t understand why they’re being rewarded. It has to happen quickly to associate that action or behavior with positive reinforcement. You also have to be consistent and stick with the exact same command phrases and address the exact same behavior over and over again. It’s a numbers game — you need to drill these ideas into their heads so that it becomes second-nature.
Putting Your Training to Practical Use
Training yourself is at least half the battle when it comes to training your dog. Let’s look at a few situations in which you would have to maintain your own discipline to teach your dog a lesson.
Teaching Them New Tricks
Treats are a good way to get your dog’s attention and instill a new vocabulary for commands. If you want to start with the basics and teach them to sit, grab a small treat and move it slowly upward above their head so they have to look up. Do it close to their face and eventually they’ll understand that they will need to sit to follow the treat. Say the word “sit” when you’re making this motion, and once their butt hits the ground, give them a treat! Don’t rely solely on treats when training, though. Only reward them some of the time with a treat, and other times with praise. Not only will that keep them on their toes, but it will train them not to perform just for food.
Rewarding Basic Behaviors
Similar to treats, toys can be used to train or reinforce basic behaviors such as sit, stay, lie down or come. First, experiment a little by finding a toy your dog really loves! If they don’t like the toy, this method obviously won’t work so well. Once you’ve got a toy they want, call out and gesture a command for them. If executed properly, reward them with short five-second bursts of playtime. You want to keep it short so they understand this is a reward for obeying. Tug on the rope with them or throw the frisbee, but always make sure they drop it when you tell them to.
Coming Home to a Hyper Dog
You just get home from a long day of work and your dog decides to greet you with a manic, flailing fury of paws and licks. They’re jumping up and scratching at you with no regard for your new pants — how rude! Here’s what you do: show them no attention until they calm down. Don’t even make eye contact or talk to them. It can be hard to shun a creature that’s showing you so much affection, but they have to learn! Use your attention as a reward and give them love once they’ve settled down. By taking away the stimulus for them, they’ll have no choice but to submit to your silent treatment and realize their behavior is inappropriate.
Clearly this is not a comprehensive guide to dog training, but hopefully it gets you thinking about ways to motivate and initiate a new chapter with your puppy pal! Do you have any training techniques to share? Let us know in the comments below!