Training Your Dog To Be More Enthusiastic

Posted on March 12th, 2012 by FetchMasters in Behavior Modification

Some dogs seem to have an endless supply of enthusiasm for particular activities. They may play fetch until your shoulder is out of joint or play tug until you have rope burns on your hands. Other dogs quickly get bored with the things you wish they would enjoy.

Their lack of interest could indicate a poor genetic predisposition, suppressed drives due to previous training or corrections, or a host of other issues. Regardless, it usually is possible to train a dog to become more enthusiastic.

Here are a few tips for convincing your dog that fun activities are … well, fun!

  • Keep The Activity Rewarding. Figure out what motivates your dog. Most dogs like something. It could be food, praise or a favorite toy. Make sure your dog is heavily rewarded for the effort he exerts in the desired activity. In some cases it may be necessary to pair the reward with only the activity you are trying to build interest in.
  • Build Skills Incrementally. If your dog does not know how to perform the activity, teach him in baby steps. Reward him for each bit of progress he makes and gradually increase the requirements for earning the reward. Don’t rush it. Nurture his understanding slowly and patiently.
  • Frequent Periods of Rest. Train in short bursts and give the dog frequent periods of rest. I often kennel a dog for a few minutes between training segments. While the dog is resting, he will process what happened during training. He may even become antsy to get back to training.
  • Avoid Giving Corrections. Generally, it is a bad idea to issue corrections of any kind when trying to improve a weak drive. Correcting a dog can dampen whatever spark he has for an activity — which can result in training setbacks.
  • Always End While the Dog Wants More. If your dog will retrieve five times before getting bored, only throw the ball twice. If he will only offer two half-hearted tugs on the rope, reward him heavily after one tug and quit for the day. Ending the training while the dog wants more will result in him entering the next training session more enthusiastically.

Dogs have a way of intensifying behavior they enjoy, find rewarding and want more of. The key to building drive is gradually and diligently building upon whatever level of behavior and desire the dog is willing to offer.