Yesterday I talked about our show routine. Today I wanted to write a few words about motivation.
Motivation is so important when we are training our dogs. If your dog doesn’t have the motivation to do something then they probably won’t succeed in the task your wanting them to do!
What motivates your dog? I mean what really gets them going?? Is it food or a certain toy?
Reward and motivation are essential for successful training and it’s really important we learn what our dog loves in order to use this as a reward and reinforcer in training and also that we are rewarding our dogs correctly. Please see my earlier blogs for my take on rewards.
See for my dogs, food is their favourite reinforcement, they do like play too but at this stage it’s not a strong enough reward for me to use it to reward them in agility.
Play is fantastic and we do use play as a reinforcer at home, we are just at the stage of introducing it to new environments. If your interested in learning how to play correctly with your dog then come and learn from TV dog trainer Craig Ogilvie as he is hosting 2 play workshops for us this year! Click here for more details on Craig’s workshop.
So back to motivation…
Today I had a one to one training session with my agility trainer, both dogs have 30 mins each and I thought this is a perfect opportunity for me to show you just what I take with me to this session;
We have our favourite dried treats in the pots, cheese, ham and chicken. I use a Lotus Ball to deliver the food reward when training certain skills.
It is important to have a range of treats available and I often mix and match what I give them in training. My dogs were only fed a tiny amount (aprox 10 pieces) of kibble a few hours before their training session.
Here is what I came back with :
As you can see, although I took this all with me I didn’t use it all! I used mostly the chicken, also some ham and a few of the dried treats. The cheese was not used at all. I’d rarther have too much than too little as I can always save anything I’ve not used for another day.
When training my rate of reinforcement is quite high and I jackpot the rewards too when the dogs are doing exceptionally well.
I want to make sure my dogs continue to have high motivation for the sport and also that I pay them well for their work.
This is sometimes a common mistake that people can make – not rewarding their dog correctly and not having the correct form of motivation for them to want to do the work in the first place.
Imagine yourself being asked to go to work for below minimum wage or for free? I don’t think you’d like it would you? Our dogs are the same they need to see value in what we are asking them to do.
Often in training the dog can get value from a number of things we would prefer them to ignore; other dogs, sniffing, birds etc. The environment the dogs are in can provide lots of rewards and other opportunities for the dogs to seek fun away from us. Reward and motivation is key!
Sometimes in training when dogs get distracted what often happens is the handler wrongly blames the dog, the floor, the other dogs, weather etc etc the list goes on! In actual fact all that is happening is that the dog is finding its fun / reward elsewhere. A reward is something your dog finds rewarding even if you don’t!
Firstly what I would suggest to any dog owner is to ditch the bowl!
What I mean by this is to use your dogs normal food for training. This doesn’t have to be as mammoth a task as it sounds, we talk about it lots on our workshops and in classes but if you would like help with this then get in touch.
Both my dogs ditch the bowl as part of their everyday life. It’s transformed the relationship I have with them and I can use the food that they were going to get anyway to reward their good choices throughout the day without the need to fill them with treats!
Ditching the bowl is fantastic for relationship building.
The relationship you have with your dogs is at the heart of everything you ask them to do!
Good relationship = Good training!
We only ever use positive reward based training.
So if I ditch the bowl then why do I still use treats?? Well this is because I want my dogs to be motivated, to be super excited about what we are learning and I also want to pay them well when they get it right.
We only use the treats pictured above for agility training, they don’t get them any other time, if they got them all the time they wouldn’t see the value of them in training. On the days when they have these extras I drastically reduce the amount of their normal kibble so they don’t gain weight.
But here is the thing… These are treats / food my dogs absolutely love! They get super excited about them!
Don’t make the mistake of using boring treats, your dogs won’t want them! Your dogs will end up displeased, disinterested and disengaged!
You want your dog to be really excited about the reward your giving them, then they will be really motivated to do the task in hand!
If your dog is lacking motivation or if they are easily distracted, find what it is for them that flips that switch on!
Mix it up – if you had the same thing day in day out you’d get sick of it right? When I’m training my dogs they aren’t sure what type of food they are going to taste next and that is what keeps their spark!
Does this mean we always feed them a mountain of food in training?
As my dogs skills develop I adapt my rewards adequately for their needs. For example if my dogs have a well established behaviour at home they wouldn’t get the same reward as what they would if they were learning a new skill in a distracting environment.
Be your dogs geek and find what it is that motivates them to supercharge your dog training, relationship and to give you real life results!