People are incredibly diverse – we all have different love languages, we enjoy different activities, and we each have different talents. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that the same applies to your dog. Whether adopting an older dog that’s a new addition to your family or raising a puppy, the key to successful training rests in your dog’s intrinsic motivators.
In other words, successful training depends on what propels your dog to obey your commands. There are many facets that might contribute to what motivates your dog, but we’re going to explore the top three most common motivators for your pup and which breeds typically respond best to those options.
Here are the top 3 motivators to aid in training your dog
The most commonly used motivator is food. Most dogs can be convinced to work if they know they will be rewarded with a tiny morsel of cheese, hot dog, or peanut butter. Food is especially effective because you can hold it in line of sight for your dog and literally ‘dangle the carrot’ toward the behavior you’re trying to accomplish. For example, an easy “sit” command can be accomplished by holding a piece of food in front of your dog’s face and raising it skyward – most dogs will naturally sit in attention. Then you can immediately reward the behavior by giving your dog the treat.
Labrador retrievers tend to be the most interested in food as means of a reward, and because they’re an incredibly intelligent breed, this makes it especially easy to train them. However, if you own a Lab, you should be mindful that they are also prone to obesity. Make sure you are treating your dog with healthy snacks. You can also use training as an opportunity to feed your dog his meal, portioning out his daily intake and using part or all of it to reward during training.
If your dog is a picky eater or less interested in food as means of a reward, they may be more excited about being rewarded with play or toys. Consider rewarding your dog with a game of fetch or his favorite plushie if he’s exhibiting behavior you like. There’s nothing like a game of tug o’ war after a quick training session.
In addition to giving your dog a reward they may better respond to, you benefit from building your relationship with him and growing closer to your pet. Working breeds such as Shepherds and Pointers tend to find fulfillment in activity; consider incorporating agility or flyball into your training so your dog can enjoy learning while participating in a playful sport.
Lastly, your dog may be motivated by praise. Offering encouragement in an upbeat voice may be enough to get your dog’s tail wagging, or you may be able to slowly phase out treats in exchange for a “good boy” and still get results. Your dog may also be motivated by pats or a belly rub. Showing affection and letting your dog know they’ve performed the desired task will help reinforce the behavior.
As we know, positive reinforcement is highly effective when it comes to training your pup, while negative reinforcement such as hitting your dog or rubbing your dog’s nose in their mess will only mar your dog’s trust in you. All dog breeds appreciate praise, and there’s no one, specific breed that prefers it over other kinds of rewards. However, if you have a dog who will respond to praise alone, consider yourself lucky!
Training your dog is significantly easier when you understand what makes your dog tick. If you have an understanding of the types of things your dog enjoys, those things can be easily implemented into training to make your sessions more meaningful and fun for both you and your pet. In the end, it’s all about strengthening the bond and helping your dog be successful. You carry the tools to obtain that sense of success.