How to Achieve Motivation and Engagement When Training Your Dog

Written by Maria Stouffer, CPDT – Training Director at Playful Pups Retreat and Owner of Full Potential Dog Training

trainer working with a dog indoorsAsk any dog trainer and they will tell you that finding the right motivation, whether your dog is motivated best by food, play or toys, is a very important part of how dog’s learn.  Creating an association with something positive, tells your dog when they are doing the right thing that pleases their owner. Most dogs have a strong motivation to food and treats (not all, but most). If your dog is not food motivated, try to find a game or toy that has value to your dog and use that as a reward for training.

What many trainers will forget to include is engagement in their motivation.  At Playful Pups Retreat we believe that YOU need to be valuable to your dog.  Valuable enough to have a strong recall anytime you call your dog. Engaged enough with you on a walk that another dog or person won’t discourage your dog from paying more attention to you when asked.

Our dog trainers can, over time, teach your dog to focus on you, and when they engage and pay attention to you good things will happen.  In the Mind Your Manners level of our A to Z Day Training Program, we start by teaching a marker system to improve a dog’s engagement with the trainer.  Using the word “YES!” as your marker (and smiling) when the dog does what you ask and reinforcing the marker word with a high value reward, will help to get the engagement you want more quickly.

trainer working with a dog on agilityWe break down each behavior we want to accomplish into small teachable pieces, marking each good step with a “YES!” and yummy treat for continued motivation. Once the pieces are trained, they can be put together into the desired behavior.  I refer to this as teaching from an elementary standpoint.  We can compare learning new skills for our dogs to children.  We send them to elementary school to lay the learning foundation of reading, writing and arithmetic. This also teaches our children HOW to learn. For dogs, this is level 1 dog obedience training.

In Middle school, more difficulty is added to their learning (along with the emotional and developmental struggles of adolescence). In the dog world, this is level 2 obedience training.  High school is the final training we provide our kids before society says they are an adult and are ready to take on the world, which is comparable to level 3 training for a dog.   If we skip any of these important developmental and educational stages, we do a disservice to our kids, and similarly to our dogs. It is a step-by-step process that takes time and commitment for pet parents, but done regularly, you will see ongoing and increasing motivation from your dog to please you.

trainer working with a dog outdoorsOur Playful Pups Retreat dog training team knows this can be a lot for busy pet parents, so focus on the first step by finding the right motivation to get the proper engagement between you and the dog.  Get to know what works best for your dog.  Play around with different rewards and watch carefully how your dog responds. In the long run, it will pay off and help to enhance the relationship you have with your dog.

Are you simply too busy to train your pup, our skilled dog training team is here to help!  We can start the training process to establish a foundation of positive behaviors that will lead to a lifetime of success for you and your pup with one of our many dog training options. Click here to learn more or schedule an evaluation and our trainers can guide you to which of our dog training programs will be the best fit for you and your dog!