How does motivation effect your positive reinforcement training?
Reinforcement is often compared to a paycheck...you wouldn't work for free why should our dogs? I hear this all the time! There is truth in this statement but what it doesn't account for is that payment can be in many forms. Money isn't enough for most of us although it is highly motivational for most people. The same is true for dogs...Food isn't always motivating enough, but it sure works well. Why?
Another frequently heard phrase in dog training is that all dogs are food motivated if you do it right. Again there is truth to this, but if you always use food to motivate your dog you have a very transactional relationship with them. You give them a job, they do it, you pay them. This is a really great model for when you are training something new or difficult as it's easy for the dog to understand what behavior you would like them to repeat. But there are also a few problems that can develop if we only rely on food motivation for our training.
1. Health issues could cause your dog to go on a limited diet or reduce the treat intake for a period of time.
2. Your dog can become hyper focused on the treat to a point that the food is more distracting then helpful.
3. While I'm a full believer in always having treats on hand, there is a point you hit where you don't want to constantly reward the exact same behavior forever. We often teach young puppies to sit, but we don't want to have to give them food every time we need them to sit for their whole life.
Why do so many of us rely on treats for dog training then? Simply put, because it's easy! Rewarding behavior we want the dog to repeat is the whole idea of positive reinforcement training. This month I'm doing lots of posts on motivation. So stay tuned to learn about other methods of reinforcement you can use to motivate your dog.
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