I’ve learned a lot about motivating your dog the last two years. In part, because I have a difficult dog and in part, because I’ve had to trial without treats or toys.
Thinking Outside the Box
For years, I only thought about treats or a ball when it came to providing positive reinforcement for my dogs.
Most of my previous dogs have been really food motivated, so treats were all we ever really needed.
I did come across one or two that would rather have a toy than a treat, but for my previous rescues, the basics always worked just fine.
Then came Tank. Tank is a picky eater and often refuses treats. He’s never really been all that motivated by treats either.
Tank forced me to look at (1) food other than treats and (2) play that didn’t include toys.
Motivating Your Dog
I usually only feed my boys a portion of their calories at meal time, so they get some of their nutrients from high quality treats, which has served me well with food motived dogs.
In Tank’s case, he’s very playful, but he isn’t a big fan of fetch or tug. He likes two things: ripping things and butt scratches.
For Bear, food works GREAT. For Copper, it depends on the value of the food and how hard I’m asking him to work.
Just like us, different things motivate different dogs, so getting to know what your dog loves is crucial to figuring out what motivates him!
Rewarding without Toys or Treats
Getting started in trials presented another challenge.
You can’t bring treats or toys in the ring, so you have to figure out how to get the extended attention of your dog without little payouts along the way.
Thankfully, I have the support of great trainers, who taught me how to use my warm up to give payouts before entering the ring and a jackpot of treats when we leave the ring.
In addition, I’ve learned how to use bridge ques to let my dog know that he’s getting it right and will get that jackpot when we leave the ring.
Turns out my voice can be a reward too!
Learning how to wean a scent hound off treats hasn’t been my greatest training challenge, but it was definitely tough. Getting it sorted out resulted in our biggest trial successes.
Having trouble motivating your dog? Drop me a comment, and let’s talk!