Positive Motivation Part 2

Author: John Lockett|Print|Return

In the first part of this article I wrote about the method of positive motivation and using food as a motivational tool. In part 2 of this article I will talk about using prey items and praise as a motivator.

Prey Items

This is the inherent instinct to pursue, acquire and kill prey. I go into prey drive in detail in my article Building Prey Drive in Puppies. Good prey drive is the main criteria for using prey items as a motivational tool in obedience training. The stronger your dog's prey drive, the more effective prey items like balls, rags and tugs will be.

Before I use prey drive as an obedience tool, I first like to build the drive as high as possible, so reading the before mentioned article can be a great help. Second I only recommend using prey items in starting obedience for advanced trainers. It's very hard to use prey items to control the dogs position. For this food is better at the start.

There are two things that need to be established in order to effectively used prey items as a reward:

  1. First the dog must understand, and look at work time and play time as the same.
  2. Second the only time the dog plays tug with the handler is when training.

If the above is taught properly to the dog, be it a pup or adult, it will be eager to work for the prey/bite object.

Handler Praise

In my early years, when I was learning to train dogs, my father and the handlers on his team believed a dog should work simply because the handler said so. This is fine when your dog is an already trained dog or you've raised the dog and you have a bond with said dog. They only used verbal praise and physical corrections. Now, looking back, their dogs worked mostly out of fear of the corrections, not because they were looking forward to the praise. Most of these dogs became fearful of their handlers.

Ok now. Picture going to work and not getting paid. When a dog follows a command and receives a melancholy 'Good Boy' from it's handler when it complies and a hard correction when it does not, he's not being paid for his work. I can almost always spot this type of foundation training. It shows in a lack of enthusiasm and strong rebellion and in hard dogs sometimes handler aggression in it's work.

98% of dogs have both some prey and food drive that can be used to help make the teaching phase of training easier. When these drives are present, I always try to use them in combination with Handler Praise. It will make your job as the trainer/handler a lot easier.

The main thing to remember when starting a dog off using only handler praise "More important than anything say you" is body posture and tone of voice. To all men reading this article "Find your Mommy talking to a baby" voice. Dogs communicate with body posture and tone. You can be saying bad boy but if your voice and posture is happy, the dog will be thinking it's doing good. After the dog complies to the command, the praise has to without a doubt tell him/her that it did not do a good job, but a GREAT job.


I have to say, positive motivation is the first step to dog training and one of the major components of dog training. I believe and have proven that a dog trained strictly with positive motivation is not reliable under heavy distraction.