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You’ve done all the right things when it comes to training your dog, and so far, it’s gone well: He knows how to sit and stay and shake, and he’s pleasant and polite to be around. But suddenly, training feels like a burden — and your dog doesn’t seem like he’s enjoying it, either. Time to give up?
Not at all! You just need to work on getting motivated again.
Motivation is key to training success. Trainability is affected far less by factors like your dog’s age, breed or size than it is by your ability to effectively capture his attention and reward desired behavior. But if you find yourself struggling to keep going with your dog’s training, don’t lose hope. A motivational tuneup may be in order.
Fortunately, when it comes to getting back on track with training, a few small changes can make a big difference. Here are five common motivational struggles and strategies for tackling them.
Taking an all-or-nothing approach.It's unreasonable to expect your dog to be trained and problem behaviors to be resolved in a single training session or class. Training needs to be ongoing; it is best done in short sessions throughout the day, lasting between 30 seconds and 10 minutes. In fact, the more you can include training in your everyday interactions with your dog, the better the chances he will follow your commands and do what he is asked to do. Training is both a process and a way of life — not just a three-hour class one Saturday a month.
Forgetting to set goals. Training can begin to feel like a burden when you lose track of your goals. Having something you and your dog are working toward can help you stay motivated. Your goals may be lofty and complex, like passing a rigorous training course or achieving a specialized certification, or more mundane, like resolving a behavior issue. In either case, establishing a goal sets the direction of training and helps you to remember why the work is worth the effort. Keeping that end goal in mind — and celebrating small successes along the way — can help keep your motivation high.
Offering the wrong reward. Sometimes dogs will give up, because the effort they’re putting in isn’t paying off. For instance, your dog may consistently sit at home in exchange for lavish praise. But at the dog park, with competing distractions like new smells and other dogs, just praise may not be enough to get your dog to sit and stay. It’s important that you find the right reward for each situation, one that makes it worthwhile for your dog to do what you’re asking him to do. This will help keep him focused on the training, rather than getting distracted by the world around him. Luckily, a dog’s environment can be used to reward behavior, such as rewarding sit with the opportunity to play.
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