You are the happy parent of a cute dog and you wish to make them a little more motivated. Whether it is to learn new commands, new habits or just to keep their schedule active, a motivated dog is a very pleasant companion.

One of the most important concepts that every dog parent wishes to learn and master is how to motivate their dog to want to follow commands.

It matters to know what your dog will work for. Don’t forget, motivation varies between dogs and you have to figure out what exactly motivates your dog. So here are 4 cool ideas on how to increase your dog’s motivation:

Let’s have a closer look at each method.

Idea 1: Reward with food

Food is a very valuable “paycheck” for dogs during training. It’s one of the few things that dogs instinctively know is good and want more of. Food holds a special place in their mind due to its primal nature. However, be aware of overusing food as a motivational tool! Using food too often as a reward, might create a dog who will only work if he knows there’s food involved. Therefore, make sure that food is being used as an occasional reward only and not in form of bribe. And yes, there’s a big difference between the two concepts!

Idea 2: Reward with words

A good way to motivate your dog is with “marker words”.

A marker word is a sound you use to tell your dog when he/she did something right.

A marker word can be used as part of the training, to speed up communication between you and your four-legged friend, and it can also act as a reward itself! Good marker words are mostly short, sharp, and happy, like for example:

  • “Good dog”
  • “YES!”
  • “TOP”

Idea 3: Reward by playing

For some dogs, playing is better than eating (or at least as good as eating). and here’s why:

  • The one-on-one attention your dog gets from you through playing is a great reward and can strengthen your relationship with your dog.
  • Moreover, playing is fun, and involves both you and the dog and is what makes you a team. Therefore, if you want to reward your dog for a job well done, an entertaining game would be a great idea!
  • But wait, there’s more to it: Using play as a reward will spare you from storing tons of doggie treats in your pockets!

Idea 4: Reward with petting

Some dogs prefer petting over vocal praise. Regardless of who is doing it, dogs never seem to get tired of being petted which makes it an excellent way to reward your furry friend.  However, it is also important to understand that dogs differ in their ‘touch sensitivity’. For some dogs, stroking or being petted in certain areas might even cause mild upset or even stress. Others love it more than anything else! Therefore, make sure that your dog feels comfortable with the petting before you use it as a reward.

dogs motivation training methods

Implementing the motivation techniques

The goal in any dog training is to encourage more desirable behaviors. Generally said, praise and reward can motivate your dog to continue the desired behaviors. What kind of reward to use is up to you and, of course, your dog. However,  it is always better to combine different methods and not just stick to one.

Toys, petting, and words can all be mixed and matched together along with the reward for a job well done.

A few more things to consider:

  • Timing: Timing is everything when using rewards. The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your dog may not associate it with the proper action.
  • Consistency: This is also a vital approach! Make sure that everyone in the family uses the same commands, otherwise, your dog may be confused. Make a list of commands where everyone can become familiar with them and leave it at sight.

Last but not least, always reward the desired behavior and never reward undesired behavior!

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