Why did you get up today to go to work, or whatever it is you did? Do you love your job, like we do? Do you need the paycheck? Do you learn new things or, perhaps, like the people you interact with? These are some of the things that keep us humans going. Our canine companions have motivators too. These motivators can change over time and can vary depending on the environment. One of our dogs is motivated by food and affection in our house. However, once outside, he is much more motivated by sniffs and hunting for critters. Motivators are important because they should be used to train your dog. If your dog likes to go on a walk, ask him for a simple behavior prior to walking out the door. If your dog really wants to go sniff a tree, you can ask your dog to do something for you, like a sit and look, then quickly take him over to the tree for a sniff as his reward for the sit and look, as seen with Sammy below.
The level of the motivator matters too. We have worked with dogs that, when you take out a tennis ball, the dog has trouble learning something new because he is too focused on the reward. This might be a reward to use once the dog learned the new behavior we are trying to teach.
In our classes, dogs are often distracted by the other dogs and humans so using a higher level motivator than what you use in the home may make all the difference. All canine companions are individuals. What are your canine companion’s motivators?