Losing Interest in Training Your Dog? Here's How to Stay Motivated

Sticking with what’s not working. Some dogs can be hard to motivate. Willy, my Pug, is one of these dogs; treats and toys aren’t enough of a reward for him. There is no one-size-fits-all training approach. Dogs are individuals with differences in learning style and motivation — and so are dog owners! If your dog is not progressing, you may need to change your approach to training. Your dog may not respond to a clicker but may be a champ when you use a food lure. Once I learned that Willy would do anything to earn praise and petting, our training sessions completely changed. It’s also possible that a lack of progress could be caused by an underlying medical issue or condition. If you suspect that this is the case, consult with your veterinarian right away.

Losing sight of how far you’ve come. It can be easy to forget where you and your dog started — and hard to see the progress that’s been made. Video recordings, written progress notes or feedback from friends and family who spend time around your dog can be helpful tools in gaining perspective on your progress. Though you may feel like your dog still has a long way to go, I suspect that you will be pleasantly surprised when you look back at how far he’s come.

One Last Thought About Motivation

In some cases, your dog may be unmotivated, because he doesn't want to do a behavior or is unable to do it in the way you are asking him to. For example, he might not come when you call him at the dog park, because that's a sign he's going to be put on leash. Or he might not sit when people come in your house, because he is anxious about new people in his home. The solution is to rethink your behavior in order to change your dog's behavior. So at the dog park, instead of calling your dogonly when it's time to go, call him frequently and reward him with treats and petting — and then let him go play more. If he seems anxious about greeting people, don't force it — create a visitor-free space in your home for him and practice his sit at times when there aren't extra people in your home.

Keep in mind as well that if your dog is struggling to master a new behavior, it's OK to back up and work on something a little simpler. This can help boost his confidence — and yours — and may get you both motivated to give the more difficult thing one more try.

Finally, it’s OK to take a short hiatus from training. We all need a break at times. Taking a break from training doesn’t mean letting your dog do whatever he wants — remember, training should be part of your everyday interactions with your pooch. But if you’re really feeling burned out, give yourself permission to skip formal training sessions for a few days. Use the time to renew your attitude, training plan and goals, so you can return to training with renewed vigor and energy. This will help you and your dog continue to succeed.

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