Finding Your Dog’s Motivator

All Dogs are Motivated by Food

This is another one of those back to basics posts, but it is really crucial to understand!

In order to use positive reinforcement, you have to find your dog’s motivator or motivators.

You must motivate your dog to listen to you.

If you can’t motivate you are, sadly, left with force and coercion.

Motivation is a term that refers to a process that elicits, controls and sustains certain behaviors.   For instance, if you have not eaten and you are hungry; food may be a motivator.

Coercion is the practice of forcing someone or something to behave in a certain manner by the use of threats or some other form of pressure or force.

Typically in dog training these are the types of training we utilize.  You can motivate your dog to listen by building a relationship and finding his motivators or you can use your physicality and force your dog to comply.

I personally like motivating my dog.  Someday, I may be unable due to illness or injury to force my dog to comply and what would happen then if our relationship was based on force?  Even if I am physically able, I just don’t like force or compulsion.  I think that we “thinking” animals should use our minds to control our animals not our physical force.

You need to find your dog’s motivators if you expect to use your mind (and not your body) to control him!

What motivates YOU?  Money? Foods like chocolate, cookies, coffee?  Video games?  Books?  TV?  Exercise or Games?  Shoes?  What do you reward yourself with?

What if your work decided it would no longer pay you; from now on they would force you to come to work and stay all day working for free?  I am assuming you would be miserable at the very least, not to mention angry and defiant!

Many people respond to my articles by saying their dog doesn’t like toys, treats or food, but you HAVE to find SOMETHING unless you expect to use force!

Just like you need to get to know the child, or the person to find out what motivates them and what to take away should they make a mistake you also need to find out what motivates YOUR particular dog.

Some Common Motivators

  • Food
  • Treats
  • Toys
  • Praise
  • Affection
  • Games

Food

All dogs are motivated by food at some point.  Food is an essential element of life; it is something that is needed by everything that is living.  So at some point food is a motivator.  If you have a fat dog that is totally satiated and not hungry, then food possibly isn’t as much of a motivator as food is for a hungry dog.

So if you have a dog that is difficult to motivate with food, then meal feed your dog cut out all the treats and extras that you give him for no reason and my guess is he will be hungry before its time for breakfast or dinner.

When I have a dog that isn’t particularly food motivated I both use his food for training and make him work for his dinner, or I use really great treats and train before breakfast or dinner!  If your dog is still not hungry, wait until he is!

Treats

Liverwurst

Usually there is some kind of treat that will motivate a hard to treat dog; you just have to find it!

I am not motivated by chocolate (unlike many people) for me, it’s all about Mountain Dew or Cheetos if you know me you would know that.  Get to know your dog and find different types of treats that he likes!

When I use to run agility classes I would make liver treats (first I boil them, then I bake them or dehydrate them until crispy) and the dogs would go NUTS for them.  Even the nervous dog or finicky dog liked my homemade liver treats!

Liverwurst (make sure there is no nutmeg) was another favorite that could get most dogs moving!

Smaller treats make better motivators.  If you are using large amounts, big dog cookies or half a hot dog, your dog will get full and uninterested in treats.  But if you use pea sized or smaller treats your dog stays motivated.  When I trained Service Dogs and had them out at a mall all day, I could make one piece of string cheese last the duration!  Keep it small!

Do some cooking!  Boil or dry some chicken breast and see if that is a good treat!  As of lately for safety and in fear of recalls, I have been making my own dog treats.

But think about it…would you want to work for a stale biscuit or processed dog treat OR would you rather have 100% pure chicken, beef, or liver?

If you are using these things for his food or treats already, then no wonder they are not working to motivate him!

So Many Toys to Choose From!

Toys

My dogs are certainly toy motivated, but that is because I play with them, with their toys!  The first time I ever threw a ball for Fury, my little girl, she looked at me like I was CRAZY.  Even if she wanted to chase it she didn’t know what to do with it!

Tossing a toy, or a ball might not cut it!  You may have to actually TEACH your dog to play!  You will actually have to get involved and play with him also!  Get animated, run with him, keep the toy away from him (this builds his desire for it) and teach him that playing with you is where it is at!

YOU in to be fun and exciting for your dog!  If you do this right YOU become is motivator!

If it’s not working, try harder or try another toy.  A ball might not be exciting for one dog but a squeaky toy might be incredibly fun!

Most dogs will play if you are fun enough to play with and you find what he likes to play with!

Praise

Praise is Crucial to Your Relationship

For most dogs, praise is not enough!  There are very few dogs that simply want to please their owner so much that praise is enough of a motivator.  We all wish we had this dog, but most dogs want to please themselves and must be taught that praise alone is enough to motivate them.

Usually if you pair praise with a treat or a game, the praise eventually becomes more rewarding and reinforcing and eventually enough that you can wean the treats and the games out of the equation.

Dogs should always be praised for a job well done, but rarely is it enough to get them to do something they don’t want, or keep them from doing something they want.

Affection

Again, affection is rarely enough to keep a dog from pulling on the leash or trying to do something he desires.  When you pair it with praise and another motivator affection can become a very strong motivator.

I often pet, kiss and even hug my dogs when they do something I want.  I want them eventually to learn to work for my praise and affection and I want to pair fun games, toys, treats with this affection.  I also want to ask them to do something for me before I give affection.

Games

Games are my dogs’ favorite motivators.  They like their treats, their food, their toys, praise and affection but they LIVE for the games I play with them.

Games have to involve YOU.  And I am not talking about just tossing a toy mundanely every time your dog brings it.  I am talking about running, biting, tugging, intermixed with obedience goofiness and fun!

I might ask my dog to do 3 things or more for me before I run with him and throw his toy.  I tug it, I throw it, I make him release it on command, I praise him and pet him all while we are playing these games together, and sometimes I even add a few food treats to keep it even more interesting.

Making him work for his toys make these games more fun!

Remember when your kids took advantage or you and your stuff.  They may have scratched your car, or flung their dirty shoes all over the house but when THEY WORK for their OWN car or home…things are different.  Working for something gives you a sense of pride when you get it.  I remember my first paycheck and how careful I was spending my own money.

Making your dog work for his games and his rewards makes it more rewarding.

Find your dog’s motivator!!!  Don’t use excuses, set out and find something that works for you and your dog.  If you are lucky and you are a really good trainer you can use all of these things and many more to motivate your dog to do what you want!

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Comments

  1. cynthia gonzalez says:

    I have always like your emails. I have a 2 yr old dog, he is the greatest thing that has happened in my life. Reading your emails have really helped my and oscar grow and learn. If you knew how many people “wish” they had my dog I would be a 1000000.00 I use all the same technics that you use, and also make my own treats or him. He wont eat a milk bone… its so funny when the mail man comes or the ups truck… they always have milk bones… oscar… throws it up in the air and walks away. One time it really embarrassed me, all the other dogs in the dog park were tearing theres up, mine went to his favorite friend and dropped it on the ground and walked away. I make him peanut butter oatmeal cookies and also peas and carrot cookies, he wont eat anyother treat. TALK ABOUT SPOILED….
    Merry Christmas /Happy holiday. And remember, safety first with our critters…

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    Debi Ross Reply:

    Hey Cynthia, don’t tease. How’s about some recipes! My dogs hate all the commercial stuff including the very high end ones. And I have 5 critters of the dog persuasion to please.

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    CYNTHIA GONZALEZ Reply:

    its pretty easy … 1 cup butter..1 cup brown sugar… 2 eggs…1 teaspoon vanilla…1 cup peanut butter…3 cups flour…2 teaspoons baking soda, i dont use salt and i have deleted part of the sugar from the original rec. let the batter sit in the fridge for like hour, the roll out little balls and bake at 350 for 7 minutes, rec calls for 10 min baking, but i find 7 is better they come out chewy, and will last longer for the dog, they wont go stale as fast. I only bake like 20 cookies then put the rest of the batter in the fridge for another time. They go over well, and can also be eaten by humans… enjoy… let me know if your critters like.

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    Regi McCorkle Reply:

    Hi Cynthia, I have two pitbulls that I adore and feed alot of treats. I would rather give them something I know what is in it. I really like your peanut butter rec. Could you give me the rec. for the peas and carrots cookie, thats sounds less fatening and more healthy? Thank-you Regi

  2. greg king says:

    My Golden Labrador,’BALOO’, is only 4 & 1/2 months old.He isn’t mad about petting because he’s very tickelish.Right know treats and praise are his favorite motivators.He’s very clever and despite the negative influence of others in my house,’Baloo’ is reasonably obedient!
    I wish there was a training program for the suppossedly more intelligent homosapians!

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    phyllis Reply:

    yes that is my problem, my partner yells at my dog when he barks, which makes it difficult for me to train him not to. I usually take him to another room and spend time with him alone where I can have him sit and stay to distract him.

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  3. i like to get my pups at about 2 to 3 weeks old so they think of me as there mother an i also use small treats an lots of praise i train no more than 15 minutes at a time so they dont think of it as work or training i do this 2 to 3 times a day an every dog has his own personality so i use that also thanks for the advice it always sound an works keep up the great work

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    Sandy Reply:

    Can’t believe that any responsible breeder would relinquish a puppy at two or three weeks. Puppies should be with their mother and litter mates until at least 12 weeks old for proper socialization and obedience. They shouldn’t even be weaned yet. Shame on you.

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    Bonnie Reply:

    If you follow Chet’s training blog’s, simply stated puppies should not leave their mom until least 8 wks. Puppies need their mother’s milk to build up immunity to diseases and to ensure health. Also, pups learn bite inhibition from their litter mates. At 2 or 3 weeks old, pups are just wee babies and how stressful to leave at such an age. No responsible breeder would allow pups to leave at such a young age.

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    Minette Reply:

    Well said and I agree! Most puppies that have to be hand fed at this age develop some behavior problems!

    Ginny Barmetler Reply:

    7 to 10 weeks is the best time for puppies to go to a new home. At 2-3 weeks, they need their mother and siblings to interact and learn basic behaviors from such as bite inhibition. They need to learn to be a dog. Dogs are our loyal and loving companions, not our children. Until the pups go to their new homes, they need human contact and socialization but they still need the interactions of their mothers and litter mates. There is no human substitute for this .

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    anne Reply:

    I don’t see the difference in your training from other good trainers that I have me.
    However I don’t see how taking a puppy from his dog family at that early age is necessary for this training.
    I really doubt that you have the ability to be a better Mother than their own.
    I have had dogs that I was honoured to have in my life at various ages – from 3 , 3, 4, 5 months and 3 years plus. They all ended up being wonderful dogs.
    My recent dog was with his own mother,father and dog family until he was 3 months. What they taight him about dog ways,socialization and adjustment I challenge any human to do.
    I think they need this time witn their dog families. I guess I just don’t want to be my dog’s mother, I want a companion, a friend. I have that. He is doing so well in obedience, agility, and rally. Plus he is a great friend.
    If it works for you that’s great. It just doesn’t seem necessary and might be detrimental.

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  4. Your articles are. Great! We got a little 8mo Yorkies from a rescue center in Ohio. We were his 5th home. Be,I’ve it or not, he did not come with many issues. He is very affectionate and behaved but had TONS of energy! Your articles taught US what to do with all that energy…..and we thank you so much.

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  5. Barbara says:

    Again you have come up with marvelous ideas! Getting back to basics is always a great idea. It’s so easy to forget the simple things. I cut up hotdogs – slice them in half and half again and then slice them in small pieces. I microwave them until they are dried and crunchy. (Wish I had a dehydrator!) They work great for my Yorkie, Annabelle. She’s 4.2 lbs so it’s easy to fill her up before a lesson is done if I use regular treats. Thanks again for sharing.

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  6. Beth Moore says:

    Hi, Chet ….. Me again. I always enjoy, and get abundant information, out of your emails. My three-year old German Shepherd, Cassidy [a rescue dog by the way] is food oriented but her very first, VERY FIRST preference is her partial Kong. In a choice between food and her Kong the Kong wins every time. She is a chewer; when I first got her it was destructive chewing in my home, but with the introduction of a Kong into her life that takes preference and household objects are now safe. Currently she has two portions of her Kong. She is seldom without her Kong either in her mouth or nearby. It takes her maybe a month to make two out of one. In our home and outside, chucking/tossing her Kong is a highlight for her. Now with the NE Ontario winter coming on, when she sees me putting on my outdoor gear she is absolutely ecstatic. In our outdoor play I treat occasionally, she gets lots of praise and affection, and reciprocates, but her Kong is her biggest reward. I chuck one part and then when she sees the other part on the end of my stick she runs back, drops the one near me and is ready to go after the other one. Her “comes” are excellent. We have great fun playing; she has given me more than one instance of side-busting laughter with her antics. Wishing you and yours a blessed Christmas season [notice I didn’t say “Happy Holiday”; that irks me no end] with appreciation for your informative and intuitive emails.

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    Joy Reply:

    I have a german sheppard will be a year old next week. Love her alot but she drives me crazy grabbing everything she can get & running with it, I’m chasing her all the time. She has treats, dog toys & I seem to remember a Kong at one time, she losers
    interest in them & wants our stuff. I see you sd PARTIAL kong is that a diff kind? Someone told me at 15mo they start calming down is that true?

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    Minette Reply:

    I get many toys online then I take away a favorite toy and add a new one every few weeks. This makes even the old toys new again!

    Play with her! She is stealing because you are chasing her!!! Don’t chase her anymore find a toy and take her outside and play with her!!

    My dog’s favorite toy right now, is the Jolly Egg!! She loves it!! You can find them online!

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    Joy Reply:

    Have no choice but to chase her if it’s something she could choke on or a bottle of whatever that could be dangerous if it broke w/the glass. Also my husband takes her out back alot & plays (I have a bad leg) he also takes her for walks alot.

    Beth Moore Reply:

    Hello, Joy ….. Cassidy came into my home at eighteen months and she was a terror. My previous girl, Jenn whom I got as a puppy, at that age was also a real going concern. My experience was that you have to hold on until they are more in the three year old range. Cassidy is just now beginning to calm down BUT it is necessary to provide her with lots of strenuous exercise. I am blessed in that I live rurally so I can run her off leash. I have a beaver stick that I found down by the lake which is ideal for “chucking” her Kongs or portions thereof. Easier than throwing and goes a lot further, therefore providing more running for Cassidy. Also good exercise for me which, at 81 years, is excellent motivation. I suspect the reason she likes to grab your things and run with them is because you chase her which, to her, is a game. I found with Cassidy when she was in the same stage that one of two things helped [1] ignore her. Cassidy does not like to be ignored, or [2] find an alternate object that will entice her [even if it is an old object of yours and not a toy. Throw it, tease her with it, entice her with it . If she is like Cassidy she will then drop what you want to retrieve to go after a new object. That is the way I chuck for her ~ two parts of her Kong ~ one thrown and retrieved by her and the other ready to throw. When I used just one she, like your Shepherd, wanted me to chase her and was a royal pain in the neck in not giving it up. When I said “partial” Kong, she is a chewer. I buy the supposedly indestructible ones at Walmart. In about a month’s time she manages to disect it so there are then three pieces. I throw the top piece away as it is too small for her to safely play with, and use the two bottom portions for throwing/chucking. Persevere with your girl, hang in there and in time you will have a companion who is a total joy and a lot of fun enjoy. Cassidy is my fourth German Shepherd and, although they have a mind of their own, or more likely because they have a mind of their own, they are intriguing and entertaining BUT they do need lots and lots of exercise to run off their high energy. Good luck! And to you and yours I wish the blessings of the Christmas season [tomorrow, no less. Can you believe it!]

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    Joy Reply:

    I hope you had a good Christmas, we went to church last night & it was so nice felt good. When I saw 3yrs old they calm down, I sd oh no 2 more yrs of this! I wanted a shepherd since yrs ago when I was younger had one that I loved so much & she loved me & my X husband who was an abuser got mad at me & got rid of her, wouldn’t say where she was. My present husband 35yrs married now knew this & got me a GS for my BD.
    We brought her for training & the man sd you people got a high energy dog for low energy people, I got mad at that but now I see it’s true. I am 70 & don’t have the energy to keep up w/her plus a bad leg. My 2nd husband is younger then me 60, & gives her alot of excersize & walks. It’s the taking stuff & running & ruining it that gets me upset.

    Tony Reply:

    way down here in shakey N.Z. we where wondering, what is a Kong?

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    Bonny P Reply:

    It’s a rubber toy shaped in a conical shape, and hollow inside. It is very thick rubber, Indestructible. You can put peanut butter inside for a treat. They come in several sizes. Great toy

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    jeanette Reply:

    A kong is usually red in color is sturdy ,soft rubber shaped like a cone,with a hole at one end so you can put a treat in so the dog can chew the toy or try to get the treat out.you can use hard treats or put peanut butter in the hole,they come in different size’s so if have a large dog you would buy the bigger kong.prices range by size,and they are not real cheap.

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    Gina Reply:

    A Kong is a hard, rubber toy in a cylindrical shape that increases in diameter as it reaches the other end. It has a large hole on the biggest end, and a very small hole on the smaller end. You can fill them with treats, including peanut-butter. I hope that makes sense. They really keep my boys very busy.

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    Lucy Reply:

    You can get them from most pet shops. I have bought some for my dogs from Animates and I have seen them in other pet shops too.

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  7. Eileen says:

    My dog is actually sniff motivated. Treats work but unless they come out of my plate, she loses interest. I want to make my own treats; she will do unpleasant things like heel for a chance to sniff around a flower bed and the neater the flower bed the more rewarding; so corporate business park parking lots are among her favorite places to sniff.

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  8. Pat says:

    Hi,
    My springer spaniel is food motivated, but she is also very clever she will do naughty things like take some possesion of mine and run round with it knowing I will give her a treat to make her drop it, now thinking about it I am rewarding her for naughty behaviour but what shud I do if she wont give things back on demand she always expects a treat before she drops it, can u suggest anything else to try. thanks

    [Reply]

    Bev Comer Reply:

    I once had a Border Collie who was like that….she would get into hte laundry basket and get ahold of my underware to start up a game of “keep-a-way”…..and UNTIL the day I decided NOT to chase her, or coax her with food to give it back…all was good in her world. What I did instead, was ignore her…no longer did I WANT what she had….I just refused to play or give her food to get it back. I just started reading a book, and though she would nudge me with the item and dance around in her most comical way…..I kept the book in front of my face so she couldn’t SEE ME….then she evenutally lost interest. When she dropped the article…I still ignored it, waited awhile then asked her if she wanted to go for a walk HAPPYHAPPYDOG your dog has found a “button” to push to get what she/he wants…SHE has trained YOU

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    Minette Reply:

    I actually use this behavior to get my dogs to retrieve. At first I reward them anytime they take anything…soon they are taking everything…then I only reward them when I ask them to take it for me.

    By only rewarding them when I ask them to take something they stop stealing everything! I think in their small brains they figure…I’m not working unless I am getting paid.

    I still have one dog who will knock things off of the counter just to pick them up for me…most of the time I just thank him and take the object away…but at 12 he is so endearing sometimes I reward him!

    But, I never ever ever chase him! I only exchange treats or light praise for the object!

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  9. I have a happy, loving dog (he loves everyone and everything, including cats), but he has never played with toys. Since I often have to leave him for several hours at a time, it concerns me that he will get bored while I’m gone. Fortunately, he very rarely gets into mischief when I’m away. I took your advice and played with him with a toy for a few minutes, and then left him with it. He played with it for three or four minutes by himself before abandoning it. I suspect that if I do this often enough, he may learn to like his toys and entertain himself with them when I’m away. Thanks for all your good advice.

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  10. Pat Eames says:

    Really love the back to basics articles. Just started training my 2y/o Shelter dog. He wants to play the take away game with my decorative couch pillows. I know his motivation and respond when he gives me a positive response like chasing his toy but the progress is slow. This has been going on for a couple of months, he has me trained to put the pillows away. Articles like your basics really help! Thanks, pat

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  11. friedman says:

    WE have a YOrkie full of energy but the vet said no other food than his pellets…he has been at the vet 3 times because he had a bowel infection…on the drip….
    he also wees inside the house and poohs and I am not impressed what do we do? He is very intelligent and is 2 years old..
    ahks for your articles…very good

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  12. Ruthe Brown says:

    Wonder what advice you would give to a senior who has just taken a shelter dog back to the shelter after three months of trying to get her to stop chewing things up after dark.

    She is a mixed breed, some shepard, some greyhound perhaps. A well mannered dog, in love with me and me with her. However, she was more dog than I could handle, having ended up face down on the pavement when she decided to chase the bunnie that ran across the road in front of us while she was on a leash.

    I didn’t let go of the leash fast enough, so I went for a ride I didn’t expect.

    I am feeling so very guilty for giving her up, but being partially disabled, I cannot take the chance of falling again.

    We do live outside of the city limits and like a prior person mentioned being able to let her dog run off the leash, that was our experience too.

    She was getting one and half to two miles of free running every day but still managed to destroy something each and every night.

    I have your dog training program and your bird training program, but just couldn’t seem to get it through her head that carpets, blankets and shoes were not edible.

    I do have another dog, a pom that is six years old, and we will still take our walk each day, but I feel like a heel for returning her.

    What could I have done differently to save the day? Any ideas gratefully accepted.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I believe in crate training when you can’t watch a dog.

    All of my dogs are crate trained and all of the dogs I trained as Service Dogs. They (most) all cried and threw little fits at first but they all eventually acclimated.

    A crate is the only place that I know that my dog and my stuff (carpets, drywall, etc.) will be safe when I am gone or at night when I am asleep.

    I also use a tie down or a constant leash when my dogs are adjusting so they don’t have the opportunity to steal things and run or chase the cat, or chew on things that they shouldn’t. They learn to follow me around and hang out in the room I am in. Once they have figured out their manners and what my expectation of them is then they can begin getting off of the tie down and leash.

    And, yes I did this with 100# 2 year old Labs and Shepherds sometimes. It is a challenge but it is worth it in the end. When I can’t watch them, they go in crates until I can trust them.

    My youngest (10 months) is still on the varying tie down method because he chews and wants to chase cats. So if he is gone for longer than 2 minutes I am following him to see what he is doing this keeps my cats and my shoes safe. If he isn’t in the room with me I know he is getting in trouble, and at night and when I am gone he is crated because I can’t watch him. He is still trying to figure it out, and it may still take him awhile but that is okay.

    My other 2 dogs are completely loose and I know I can trust them. They hang out in the same room with me and are never gone away for very long before they return, because this is how they were trained.

    At my house you have to earn complete freedom!

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  13. Merle Ann says:

    Hi.

    I sure would like to see some recipes for making dog food, treats and cookies. I use all organic foods…and my dog loves whatever I fix, but do I need to buy vitamins also? and what about antioxidents? I have a mini french poodle ,he is now 9 months old and a pure Joy.

    He is motivated by me playing on the bed with him, rolling him over and making him stand up….I am a bit handicapped so it is wasier for me on the bed, I stand and play with him….Little Bear is his name a chocolate brown sweet dog…:O)

    MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL

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  14. Ethea says:

    I have a mini rat terrier that is 1yr old. she is very hyper but we have had some success with the training. My question is…..what do I do about the crying when I have to leave her even for a minutes. She hates her cage but must be put in it when I work the 8 hrs at night. She crys loudly for sometime after I leave her. Since we live in an apt this is not acceptable. If I leave her with my husband thats okay but she watches for me to return. She just objects to being put into the cage. She even crys when I leave her in the car while I go into po to get the mail. This is driving me nuts. Ive tried everything to stop this behavior. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated. Love my baby girl but hubby says we will have to get rid of her if we cant solve this problem.
    MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY HEW YEAR TO YOU AND YOURS.

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  15. caro from chile says:

    my bitch has a thing for smelly feet or socks…in what category should that be? food? treats? toys? hahaha I just find her obsession curious. she´s a great agility dog and always very motivated.

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    Minette Reply:

    Have her run for a good smelly sock! I think that would fall in the toy category!

    I shouldn’t admit this, but my oldest dog LOVES socks and I let him play with them cause I know he will never “eat” one. So he is the only dog I “allow” to steal them…then he runs over to me and shows me and play bows and I chase him around a little. Its our morning game. He drops it if I tell him too and he would release it on command, but every once and a while he likes to feel a little naughty! ha ha 😉 I love dogs!

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    CYNTHIA GONZALEZ Reply:

    I love dogs also, My oscar is my best friend, and all the neighbors in this area, wish they had a dog like mine, but I spent alot of time with him when he was a pup, training him. I can leave him on my front porch with out being tied up, and he wont budge from that spot, even if another dog goes by… he so smart… and loving… he the best thing that ever happened to,… I LOVE YOU OSCAR…

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  16. Dave Ritchey says:

    Our dog is a Plott Hound, about 3 years old. She found us about a year ago. She loves to run if I am with her,but doesn’t care to be out much unless I am with her. She gets bored in the basement. I spend as much time as possible with her, even installed a T.V. But she is a chewer, I can’t leave anything down there i.e. shoes, clothing, anything really. Every thing has to be up out of her reach. She has destroyed shoes, phones, coats, gloves, dog collars, chairs, just about anything. Is there something I can do to stop this. Also outside she is a digger, and loves to dig in our flower beds for moles I think. I have tried spraying the area, but as soon as it rains of course the scent is gone. Other than these two issues she is a great dog.

    [Reply]

    Shari Reply:

    Painting the objects you know he’ll chew with hot sauce works-or sometimes another strong taste like peppermint. When my dogs have something they are not suppose to have, when I get the item back, I put in their mouth the chew toy that they CAN have. As far as the flower beds-that is very important to me, so teaching the “leave it” command will help there (but only when you are around to supervise)
    Good luck!

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  17. Julez says:

    If there is someone out there that can help me please let me know…I have an 18 month old 80lb lab and she keeps getting up on my counters and taking stuff like food, boxes, anything she can eat or rip apart and its driving me crazy! I don’t know what to do to teach her to stay off my counters everytime I leave the kitchen.

    [Reply]

    Caroyn Reply:

    I have never been able to stop one of my Gordon Setter bitches from stealing food so I just keep the kitchen door shut when I am not in there and make sure she has not hidden somewhere in order to be left in there (she is smart) It saves her stomach and my sanity.

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  18. Anne says:

    I think one of the best strategies for training is to make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise. They need to use their enegy and can then concentrate- just like a hyper child. It is almost impossible to teach them anything if they can’t focus.
    My border collies would cause chaos if they didn’t have a chance to be dogs and run and play.
    As well, I also do “shaping” exercises to use up energy. I have heard that 15 mins of brain exercise is equivalent to an hour of physical.
    I think many people try to control too much these days. I know people who walke their dogs daily on a heel postion. What fun is that for a dog?
    They need to get out in some area and explore.
    I am not a fan of dog parks, because of possible aggression or disease spreading. So my dogs have friends they know. We go to the forest (of course one needs to protect their dog and a dog that takes off needs to be contained in some way- a long long line or a secrued area. – safety is primary) recall is vital and the major thing I start training. Off season he is allowed on the golf courses- at least in Canada. I think exploring increases their reasoning power.
    Then he is ready to work.

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  19. Susan says:

    I have a 2yr old Pitt bull mix who i adopted from the pound, in 7/18/2011 ,i got her spayed and and some agility training. We were making progress then right before thanksgiving she got away from me and ran over by a dually truck it ran over her pelvis, a month of towel rocking and recovery she’s doing great it’s almost like it never happened. then i got sinus infection, bronchitis, and flu right after she healed, i just got off bed rest. Now almost two months out we tried to walk she’s fine unless a vehicle passes us i have to get off the road as far as possible and drape myself over her to keep her from getting away from me she freaks out know. We are really starting from scratch again it seems so overwhelming but i’m not giving up on her she is a good dog. Like the senior citizen above, i like my trainer as an individual but she believes in choke collars because of the breed. Besides freckles is so strong and it is my first big dog. she jumps a lot but loves balls even though she flattens them pretty quick. Even the pit bull sites for promote choke chains, There’s got to be a different way even with this high energy breed.
    I love your website and training methods how can i get her to stop freaking out on me.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    She doesn’t need a choke chain and that puts her at risk when she is scared because it is strangling her.

    Instead I would use a gentle leader and a martingale or greyhound collar.

    You are going to need to desensitize her to traffic but backing up to the point that it doesn’t bother her and slowly working your way up as it continues not to bother her. Each time she has a nervous break down and you have to throw yourself over her she is taking more and more steps backward. You may not be able to take her for a walk until you can control her or the situation.

    Train inside for a while or at a training facility to work on just her basics. And, slowly go out and “watch” traffic from a safe distance so it doesn’t bother her. You can also do things like park at a truck stop and feed her or share a burger 😉

    I am guessing no more agility or jumping for quite some time!! Use treats and balls but don’t make her jump for them. You can build her drive by pulling them along in front of her (on a string) but not bringing them up and making her jump!

    She can learn, just let her work at her pace and work up slowly!

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  20. Jeni says:

    Please help. We just got a French bully crossed with Boston Terrier a couple of weeks ago. She is such a loving dog and her motivator is definatley affection. The problem only problem we are having is she will poop in her crate at night and then lay in it. I thought dogs don’t want to poop where they sleep or eat. Her last feeding is at 5:00pm and we let her out just before bedtime which is at 10:30pm and I get up at 6:00am. She is 11 weeks old. It is not that she cannot hold it as we had to travel for a funeral and we took her and as long as she is being held she does not have any accidents. Please help I am at a loss.

    [Reply]

    Carol Reply:

    My first thought was “How big is her crate?”. My dog’s crate came with a divider so that I could adjust the size of her sleeping area when she was a puppy. It sounds as if she spent her first months of life in an environment where her living area wasn’t kept clean and she became accustomed to lying in feces. If this is the case, then she has to be taught to go outside. She doesn’t know better and just letting her out before bedtime isn’t going to work. Don’t scold her, she can’t possibly understand. I had a dog that was paper trained and would sniff around and play in the back yard but run back into the house to go potty…she was just doing what she had been taught from birth.
    What you have to do is take her for a long walk before bedtime, giving her time to sniff and explore. Walking my dog always causes her to go. Teach her a command like “go potty” when she does it and then reward her with a longer walk. You’ll both sleep better and she will eventually learn what you teach her…but she must be taught(trained). Wishing you many happy years with your dog!

    [Reply]

  21. Rene says:

    Anne, your point about giving your dog ample exercise before training is so true. I take my high energy dog for a very long walk, romp, safe off-leash play, or exercise BEFORE any intense training. It also helps to do this before the dog’s next big meal, so she is more motivated by food after the energy burn. I always wear the “hands free” clicker with a clip hooked on my waistband, and a stash of her favorite treats.

    After intense exercise, especially after “safe off leash” activity, when I hook the leash back on her (she comes when called, yippee!), she now goes automatically into “training mode,” heeling, walking nicely on the leash and watching me for my next command (and the subsequent treat reward). I’m happier, she’s happier!

    [Reply]

  22. Rene says:

    Minette,
    Thanks for the motivators article! I’ve been working Chet’s program/ clicker training for 3 weeks with my 1 y.o. energetic young lab retriever/aussie/husky shelter dog. Love your blog.

    A big motivator for my friendly Social Butterfly dog is her desire to greet her human and dog friends, so I incorporate that motivator (affection) into her training by making sure she is calm and settled before meeting/greeting. Wow, what a difference!

    “Exercise before training” as previously mentioned really helps my dog be calmer, more focused, less wild child, and I usually time it before her next big meal so she is more food-motivated. I wear the hands-free clicker clipped on my waistband, and a stash of yummy treats. Now after exercise, (especially long walks, dog play, safe off-leash romps) when I put her leash back on, my dog is starting to automatically go into “training mode,” heeling and walking nicely, watching me for the next command (and the subsequent treat/reward). She’s happy, I’m happy.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    I am sooo glad! Good for you two!

    [Reply]

  23. Juanita says:

    WOW!! I LOVE reading your posts.But for some reason I just can’t seem to find good motivators. :/ I have a Bernese Mountain Dog mix that is just basically 1 yr. now.He thinks that he just has to pull my clothes often when I’m running.Or even when I’m just down on the ground playing around with him.So it kind of makes it hard for me to play with him.He also doesn’t live in the house like some other dogs.So that makes it tough too because he gets bored sometimes.I’ve always wanted to be a good dog trainer.And my family gets so annoyed and even mad sometimes with me and my dog.I’m afraid he might hurt someone yet…Then I’d be afraid that I would have to give him up. 🙁 Both of us really need help.

    [Reply]

    Minette Reply:

    At some point food is a motivator for anything that lives…. if you need it and you have to do something for you it will motivate you to listen. Read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/treats-working-dog-whale-tv/

    [Reply]

  24. queen says:

    I guess I got lucky with the dog I have it has been sooooo easy to train her. with out using treats I talk to her so much that I guess she think she’s human if that possible. she knows how to wipe her feet when it rains she knows the difference between go to her room or lets go to bed,and when I talk to her she give me her undivided att. she looks at me while I talk to her, she tilts her head from side to side as thou she is trying to understand what I am saying to her. everything that she have learned was done witout a treat but with lots of praise affection, and excitement I verbally let her know how prod I am of her. it works 🙂

    [Reply]

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