For most dogs, training with treats is easy and efficient. But what if your dog isn’t food motivated? It may sound strange, but some dogs just don’t really care if they get a treat or not. Worry not, for every dog has a “currency”.
Currency is used as a positive reinforcement for doing wanted behavior. For a currency to be effective, it has to be something your dog actually cares about. Using a currency that your dog doesn’t necessarily care about can be frustrating. Also, your dog’s currency could change as they age or if they get too much of one particular currency. And just because your dog has a favorite currency, doesn’t mean you can’t use the other types. If you are training a new trick, a particularly difficult one, or in an area with lots of distractions, use the favorite currency to help them focus.
It’s possible your dog is food motivated but is a little picky. Maybe he wants that extra bacon from breakfast this morning or the leftover chicken from last night’s dinner. Maybe he just doesn’t like the peanut butter flavor in the treats you bought. Try some various options before ruling out food as a reinforcer.
Some dogs have a favorite toy and don’t care much about others. Some will play with anything you throw or wiggle in front of them. Switch things up and see what they respond the best to.
Affection and praise is an amazing yet surprising reinforcer for some dogs. Some will even pass up a treat to get some scratches and sweet talking from their owner. If your dog responds most positively to this form of reinforcement, consider yourself lucky. You can use this anywhere!
After you find your dog’s favorite reinforcement, don’t forget about the other ones. You don’t want him to get bored with the same type and start to ignore it. Keep it his favorite by switching things up sometimes. This can be as easy as switching up treat flavors, rotating in a new toy, or changing from scratching behind the ears to the belly.
Stimulating your dog’s brain is just as important as making sure they get enough physical exercise. Keep them sharp with new tasks and tricks. Plus, a tired dog is a good dog, right?
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