Because, Sometimes You Feel Like Some Nuts, Sometimes You Don't
I love nuts, especially the roasty, salty ones! The ones that you just can’t stop eating!
This ‘oh yes, more please’ feeling is what I try to provide the dogs I work with! I want the dogs I train to think, ‘Oh yes, more of that please. What can I do to get more of THAT?!’
As a dog trainer, this MOTIVATION TO WORK, is something I constantly have my eye on.
Motivation changes, it moves around, and my job is to follow it and make use of it with each dog, each moment, of the time I train them. I am a force free trainer; my motivators are from the happy side. Things like, chicken, steak, cheese, and toys are my tools! I will never, ever use fear or pain to train your precious dog, and the evidence tells us that you shouldn’t either!
Recently I am working with a lovely, big Goldendoodle named, Poppy. Poppy is a happy, friendly girl who loves to pull her way to all the good places, people, and things on a walk! Especially the Dog Park where she goes with her mom every day.
Poppy’s mom is a small woman in stature and Poppy, at over 70 lbs., is a bit of a, shall we say chore, to walk! Not much fun at all.
I came into the picture to help Poppy and her mom with a variety of the usual Happy, Friendly Dog ‘Problems’ such as, leash pulling, jumping all over people and not coming when called. I call these the Happy, Friendly Dog Problems because that’s exactly what they are! Happy, excited pulling to get to the people I love, the dogs I love, the places I love – which is pretty much all the people, all the dogs, and all the places! Jumping all over the people and the dogs, BECAUSE. I. LOVE. THEM! And because these happy, friendly dogs find so many things exciting and interesting, they are often reluctant to leave those things behind to go home, and many times, coming when called leads to going home. Womp, Womp.
So here I go, confident, well-educated trainer that I am, to conquer the Happy, Friendly Dog Problems. I am armed with my highest value bag of motivators: chicken, steak, cheese and a variety of store bought treats, so that I can meet Poppy’s motivation needs wherever they are at any given moment and under any distractions that come our way! Oh yes I know you happy, friendly dogs, and I am prepared for you!
Here’s the thing though. For some of the things we worked on - Sit Wait, Leave It and even some of the Loose Leash Walking - these motivators were great; really, really, great. But for Walking Nicely on Leash to the Dog Park, we were struggling.
Let me just back up a sec here. I wanted to give Poppy’s mom a few layers of control (again, tiny woman, big exuberant dog), so I worked with Poppy to happily wear a head halter (the one that goes over their nose; great tool when introduced properly!), had her in a front-clip harness, and was using my trusty chicken/steak/cheese combo. But nothing I tried seemed to be enough to stop Poppy from freight-training-it to her Dog Park to chase her BALL!
AHA! Her ball! What Poppy wanted more than anything, was her ball.
For this particular dog, in this particular situation, the ball itself was her most valuable item, and I could put that to use for training! I tied Poppy’s Ball on a Rope to the handle of her leash and off we went to give it a go. Magic! Along with the food motivators for extra ‘you are the best loose leash walker in the world’ moments, Poppy happily trotted along beside me with her ball in her mouth! Anytime she started to pull ahead, she risked losing the ball; the ball firmly attached to the leash held in my hand.
The solution was there waiting for me the whole time. It often is. Dog Trainers, the good ones, are always asking themselves, ‘what does this dog love enough to work for.’
For me it’s salty nuts, chocolate, and red wine. For Poppy, it’s her ball.
This post is a part of the "Train For Rewards Blog Party 2019", with Companion Animal Psychology.