This is probably one of my most asked questions from clients. And if it’s not that, they’re telling me “But, my dog isn’t food motivated.”
I understand – having food on you all the time is annoying! But more often than the annoyance of having food is the aversion to giving the dog food because the person thinks they’re somehow bribing or doing some evil act by rewarding the dog with food. I’ve covered “Why Using Food Isn’t Bribery” in this post. But the takeaway is food is your dog’s paycheck. You don’t work for free and neither do dogs. You go to work to get a paycheck. Does receiving a paycheck for your hard work mean you’re being bribed? Receiving a paycheck for the work you’ve done is hardly a bad or dishonest thing. You earned that paycheck. And it keeps you coming back week to week.
The same applies to your dog. If you expect your dog to keep doing the tasks you ask him to do – he needs to keep getting his paycheck. If you showed up, did your job and your boss patted you on the back and said, “You’ve been doing a great job all this time – so great in fact, that we’re going to stop paying you!”, I doubt you would continue to show up. Praise isn’t enough. It’s a myth that “dogs want to please us.” Dogs are animals and every animal (humans included) do what works for them.
One of my trainer friends has such a great answer for the question “Which behaviors do I need to keep rewarding?” He says that’s like like asking your dental hygienist “which teeth do I need to keeping flossing?” Anwer: “Only the ones you want to keep.”
So which behaviors do you need to keep rewarding’? Only the ones you want the dog to keep doing.
If you need help, you can schedule a session here.