motivator for training dogs, while some dogs will happily work for affection in
the form of petting or praise alone. Others require extra encouragement that
uses more energy on the part of the handler by engaging their dog in play - with
tug toys, for example. Working dog breeds can be self-motivated and will happily
work every day on a training regimen while other dogs may have fears or anxiety
that need to be worked through making the training process slower.
Elfie, my poodle terrier x, is self-motivated while training. She enjoys the interaction
and praise. When it comes to training her in agility she self-rewards on the
obstacles; that means she takes the obstacles for the sheer joy of doing them
as it is reward enough for her. Eggnog, my Jack Russell, enjoys the interaction
but loves food - food is his great motivator. Nutt-Meg on the other a hand will spit
out the food as if to say “I know what you are trying to do lady and it won’t work on me”.
So she requires more motivation, more praise, more encouragement, one-on-on
attention, play, tug toys. I am always switching up methods with her. It is a
constant work-in-progress – a slow progress so I focus on the positive.
Whatever method you use to motivate your dog for training the session will be
enhanced by keeping a positive attitude. While maintaining an upbeat happy
attitude your dog will more encouraged to engage with you and ultimately in the
training. But, it’s not just a positive attitude at agility training sessions that influence
good results. When training your dog don’t focus on the failures, instead put your
focus on the successes. By understanding your teams’ weaknesses and strengths
you can use them to your advantage.
Elfie has a wonderful sit, wait and release command at home, in class, and at practice.
However, the energy and the excitement at a trial does not give my years of training
the sit & wait any justice at a sanctioned event. How many times have you heard
someone say, “My dog does that perfectly in class”? Elfie’s strength is her eagerness
at the start line and our weakness is the start line stay; however, out of necessity I
began what I call the Elfie send-off at the start line. I send her to the start from the
side giving me time to move ahead of her and on some courses I believe it works
better than a lead out.
As an instructor I felt immensely guilty telling my students their homework from day
one is to work on the “sit, wait & release” command when I have failed miserably at
it myself. That was until I read an article by a 16 time world champion times speed
record holder who also does not have start line stays. To quote her “We might not have
a start line stay… – But hey, we do have the attitude!
With persistence and enthusiasm to motivate you and your canine,
you can achieve your training goals. Be patient, work around weakness by
focussing on the positive. Remember that we all learn more from our challenges
than things that come with ease. I swear if this was easy none of us agility
junkies would partake in the sport. What works for you and your team may not be
my path but let’s face it – you like the challenge; that is why you are