We all know somebody who's got a dog that only listens when food is on offer. Or worse still a dog who simply doesn't listen even when treats are offered.
Maybe that's you and your dog? Sometimes it really does seem like the only way to get your dog to listen to you is to bribe them with food, and that just doesn't feel right.
Well the good news is that it doesn't have to be this way and the solution certainly isn't as hard as you think.
Here's four simple tricks that I've picked up from leading dog trainer, Doggy Dan, that make so much sense and have completely changed my own way of training and motivating my dog. I've seen it in action so I know it all works.
1. The Jackpot: The first secret is simply this… Dogs are far more motivated and excited by food rewards when the size of the reward varies. In other words it's much better to give your dog a couple of smaller treats followed by a big one than just to give small ones all the time. I know it sounds so simple and yet I can promise you that 95% of dog owners are giving their dog the same boring treat every time! That's right, the surprise is everything! And here's why… How many times have you been more excited when you are told that you are going to get a present than when you actually open it up and get the present! Think about it. When people play the lottery and buy a ticket the excitement builds as soon as you have your ticket… Then the excitement continues to increase right up to the point when the numbers are announced. Then you realize that you've NOT won the $24 Million Jackpot…maybe next time. Still we buy a ticket the following week. Why? Because we are holding out for the jackpot! It's the small chance that we may win something really big that keeps people buying tickets again and again. And it's the same for your dog. If you very occasionally call your dog over and give him the biggest reward of his life they will remember if for a long time. Your training will probably go onto turbo boost performance for many weeks. Doggy Dan tells a story he calls the "The story of the magic sausage" about a man who used to feed his dog off the BBQ. Not surprisingly his dog sat by it begging for food every time that it was fired up. The recommendation was simply this… Never feed your dog from the BBQ, but later in the day, when the BBQ is turned off and everything cleared away call your dog to you when they are not expecting it. Then as soon as they arrive out of the blue give them a whole sausage. Your dog will look at you and think…"WOW. You can produce sausages out of thin air!" The magic sausage story is a great example of using a jackpot to motivate a dog to another level. You will not need to use many to get them second guessing every time you call them if it's going to be a big treat. The result: They will be totally motivated and come running every time. Of course a whole sausage may be too much if you only have a tiny dog but you get the idea. This trick makes the use of food far more exciting, and motivating for your dog than the old "one dry biscuit, one dry biscuit, one dry biscuit" approach.
2. What is even better to a dog than one big sausage? Now the second secret to using food to motivate your dog actually builds upon secret number one which is the jackpot. That's where we use a whole sausage as a reward. Now I am actually going to suggest that you make that jackpot of one whole sausage even more appealing to your dog. How could you possibly do that without giving the dog two sausages I hear you ask! The solution is this… Chop the sausage into a handful of nice pieces, maybe 5 or 6. Now when your dog gets the Jackpot feed them into your dogs mouth, one after another as if all their Christmas' have come at once. Your dog will not believe their luck. To them getting 5 or 6 pieces is far more rewarding than getting one whole sausage which they probably will swallow in a couple of mouthfuls. So now you know the answer to the question what is even better to a dog than a whole sausage? Answer: A whole sausage chopped into five or six pieces…
3. Not all food is created equal: Do you like Lemon Meringue pie best or Chocolate Pudding? Dogs, like people, all have their favorite food treats and if you want your dog to perform like a rock star then find out what spins their wheels! There is a huge difference in performance between a dog who's totally motivated to win the reward compared to the same dog when they are only half semi-interested. So often that motivation is directly related to whether you are using the same dry biscuits that they ate for breakfast or some new tasting ones. But it's not just about dry biscuits! You should also think outside the square. For example, does your dog love a large dog biscuits with some peanut butter spread all over it, does chicken, sausage, bacon or cheese get them doing cart wheels? You could also try some of the healthy manufactured treats. Of course some of these fattier high end treats may not be especially good for your dog in large quantities, so as with our own diet the volume needs to be monitored. The flip side of this is that since these top end treats are not going to be given out very often so you can actually afford to splash out a bit.
4. Randon rewards: Most importantly is to keep in mind the end goal that you are going to fade the food treats out over time… until they become very random rewards.