Positive Motivational Training For Your Dog

Author: John Lockett|Print|Return

Motivationally training is not simply giving your dog a treat when it complies with a command. To correctly motivate your dog means to create a surrounding that makes your dog want to work for you, as if it where play time.

Motivational Training:

Let me start by saying that motivational training is a Key Component of dog training, but not the only component. Over the last 12 or so years, Total Motivational Training has become very popular and costly to the pet owners that use it. I see Pet Smart and similar companies turning out hundreds of motivationally trained dogs that have not been trained at all. These dogs only understand what the commands mean, but, have yet to be taken though the other 2 phases of training. Approximately 1/3 of my clients come from these so called trainers. If a dog has any prey or play drive, this method should only be the start to its training. That being said I believe all dog training should be started motivationally.
In the beginning of training, I try to find a method of reward that make the dog very excited. There are three basic types of reward that can be utilized.
  1. First and foremost I try to use food: The reason for this is, of all the rewards, food is the easiest to use to control the dog’s body and movement.
  2. Second is a prey items: like the dog's favorite toy, i.e. "tug, rags, ropes" and so on. The problem with the prey item is it can take a lot of practice to get and or keep the dog in position. That being said, I like to use the prey items as the reward after the dog knows the commands and positions.
  3. Third is praise from the handler/owner: With many dogs, this type of reward can work all by itself. The problem I've found is its hard for a lot of people to find a tone of praise that does not under or over excite the dog....The better the trainer, the more effective the handler praise is.
Dogs are a lot like humans, what will work for one may not work for others. That being said, the same method that has you dog hyper and ready to work at home, may not get his/her attention at all when you’re trying to train at the local park. There are several reasons for this behavior and the 3 methods of reward must be applied to the dog accordingly to your dogs:
Temperament         -       Bond between owner and dog
Nerve                       -       Level of Distractions
Working Drive        -       The skill level of the trainer
At this point I will break down food as a  Motivator and how we apply it to obedience training.


  1. My Number 1 rule of using food as a motivator is keeping the dog hungry. From the beginning of mans interaction with wild dogs, he found that food was a great and easy way to bond with dogs.  This is still true today. When a dog comes into my training center, one of the first things we do is cut their food intake for one feeding. This is done even if the dog is in for protection training. I have found that it helps with the trust and bonding between the handler and dog.
  2. Building food drive! Ok we held back the first meal and now we have his/her attention. Now it is time to take it to the next level.  For the next week of training we're going to build the food drive. The way we will accomplish this is by only feed the dog during training from your hand when it complies with a command. The dog will learn very quickly that if it wants to eat, it has to work for it. Note: Very Important....if you’re going to use this method, your training session should be no longer than 5 - 7mins, 4 - 5times a day. We are not feeding the dog in one session.  The dog gets the required amount of food over a full day and learns to work for every bite.
  3. Timing is one of the biggest and most important steps in training. It's C.O.D "Cash On Delivery"!  If you tell your dog to sit, the moment its butt touches the ground, that treat needs to be in it's mouth. If you're looking for speed and consistency, timing is extremely important!
In part 2 of this article I will go into prey items and praise rewards.