Motivation plays a huge role in our behaviors, from the smallest decisions we make to the biggest ones! It affects how much you change your behavior and how you behave in certain situations, and the same is true for your dog. You may not work as hard for an employer that has deadlines but doesn’t enforce them as you would for one who is punctual about deadlines.
When it comes to training, and getting the same behavior consistently from your dog, it’s all a matter of motivation and consistency. If you remember this, you’re already on a better path to a well-behaved dog. Does your dog get furniture privileges and lots of love and affection even though they’re not behaving appropriately when guests come over? Do they get lots of freedom even though they’re chewing things in the house they shouldn’t?
If they do, there’s not a lot of motivation for them to change! If they get all the good stuff from us without any expectation of good behavior, there’s not much of a reason to change. They’re aware of what is given freely and what is earned, and value more what they earn than what is given freely. Having your dog earn privileges also teaches them to look to you as a leader, and means they’ll look to you when they’re in a situation they’re unsure of. Dogs are living in our world, so it’s up to us to provide boundaries that help them be their best selves, and allow us to include them as much as we can! A well-behaved dog tends to be more relaxed, because they know where they fit in instead of trying to figure it out for themselves.
So take a look at your life with your dog. Are there areas you’re struggling in but other areas where your dog gets a lot of leeway? If so, start to take away some of the freedom, just for a little while, as you teach them the new boundaries. Removing the extra freedom they’re getting allows them to focus on the rules, and start changing their behavior to earn them. If you’ve got a toy or sock stealer in the house, put a leash on them and don’t allow them to practice that behavior, and keep the leash on so that you can interrupt them if they try to go back to whatever they were doing. If your dog gets lots of love and affection even though they run amok in the house, cut back to 30% of what they’ve been getting, and dole it out as they behave the way you want them too.
Before too long, your dog will realize they have expectations to follow, and the motivation for behaving is the freedom that follows.
Dog training comes down to just a few principles, but it’s a matter of changing OUR behavior to get the best from our dogs! Start to change what you allow from your dog, and your dog will realize you expect more from them. They’re fully capable of changing their behavior, but it’s our job to make sure the motivation is there for them to change! Happy dog training!