Rewarding the Agility Dog
If you watch enough dog training videos you will see most trainers use food rewards for their dogs, but what you may not see is what happens when a dog has no interest in food rewards or have lukewarm reactions to them.
Each dog is different and finding the right motivator can take some creativity. Yes, some dogs will not accept food when they become overstimulated, stressed, or anxious but there are also dogs that work harder for a different motivator such as tugs, squeaky ball, or even your praise. In fact, dogs are better off in the long run when You are the reward.
If you have a “difficult to motivate dog,” you may have your work cut out for you. Try different treats such as cheese, peanut butter, fresh cooked meats like chicken or organ meats. Some dogs love lettuce, carrots, or… try healthy dog safe foods, even those that don’t make sense. If you have time, you can try making your own treats, softer is better for treating while the dog is moving so they don’t choke. Make sure your treats are about pea sized so your dog doesn’t get “full” on them and quit working. If your dog just doesn’t want the “good stuff” or you don’t want to cook meat, you can try prepackaged treats, once again looking for small soft treats that are grain free and healthy for your dog.
Some dogs are just not food motivated. Toys are the answer! Take your dog to the pet store and test the toys until you find one your dog keeps going back to. There was a dog who LOVED his super soaker, be creative! When you are home, only allow your dog to play with the toy during training sessions. If your dog has unlimited access to the toy, it will lose it’s value. Also, be sure to quit when your dog is still interested in the toy. If you tire your dog to disinterest, they will lose drive for the toy the next session.
And don’t underestimate praise! Especially young dogs, try a puppy party and you just might find your dog’s drive and motivation both increase with a simple game of puppy praise and love. Some breeds will bend over backward if it gets you to smile or laugh and those you have with you all the time!
Keep in mind that the praise has to make sense to your dog and make them happy. So what works for one may do nothing for another. Get out there and give it a try!