Is your dog overweight because your last trainer told you to feed her hotdogs? You fed her as strangers approached, as dogs walked by, and every time you saw a squirrel. You fed her every time she sat, every time she lay down, and every time she barked out the window. Sometimes when you fed her, you thought, “Am I reinforcing her for barking out the window, though?”
Your gut instinct was right. Your dog learned that when she barks out the window, the next thing she should do is run to you and get a nice piece of hotdog. What an awesome game!
Your veterinarian says that if your dog doesn’t lose weight, she’ll need knee surgery. She’s also at risk of getting diabetes.
How are you going to get your dog to listen to you without the hotdogs?
One of my newer clients called me for help with her rescue dog. She’d been training with food, but quickly realized that when her dog is outside and fixated on another dog (or person) she could “wave a steak in front of his face and he wouldn’t notice.”
Here are some training tips to help you reach your goal of a friendly family dog who is nice to strangers, doesn’t pull on the leash, and is a healthy weight too:
WHAT DOES YOUR DOG LOVE? — Your dog loves YOU! She will likely work for your praise. You should use your voice to praise your dog. Be aware that dogs who are very high drive and excited already don’t need your “Good sit!” to have as much enthusiasm as if your child just got into the university of their choice. All dogs are snowflakes. Figure out whether a calmer tone helps your dog know she’s done a good job, or if you need a little more enthusiasm (because your dog is a little bit shy and requires more encouragement.)
TOUCH — Along with your voice, some dogs are very happy to work for being petted. We’ve all seen a police dog getting thumped on the rump for a job well done. That doesn’t mean YOUR pet dog enjoys that much enthusiasm and force. Some dogs like that and some dogs don’t. Your dog may be a little shy and likes a gentle chest rub. Bottom line, know YOUR dog.
TOYS — Your dog loves tug o’ war. Use this to your advantage. Your tug toy is now your dog’s reward. Ask them to heel, lay down, or sit and reward them with a bit of tug. Before using this method, teach your dog a reliable “drop it” command.
PRO TIP: Dogs love to work for food and will often work for their food ration. Instead of using unhealthy, fattening hotdogs use their daily ration of Norman’s Naturals for training rewards.
We hope you have lots of fun learning about what motivates YOUR dog. Drop a comment below and let us know what your dog loves to work for.
~Alyssa Foulkes, MSc, Dog Behaviourist
Alyssa loves helping dog lovers build better relationships with their dogs. Beyond Dog Training offers in-home, in-car, and online training in Guelph, ON and the surrounding area.