Motivation is important in training the family dog. How do you keep the spark alive to take action? Here are three ways and activities that not only make training and learning fun, but keep the motivating forces burning.
Motivation One: Choose one random skill per day to work on
1. Buy or locate a simple recipe file box.
2. Buy mini-sticks at a craft store. They look similar to Popsicle sticks.
3. Buy a pack of 3×5 cards, preferably multiple colors.
1. Write all the behaviors, skills, tricks and anything else working with the dog involves. For example, one stick might read, teach paw shake with both paws. On the back it might read, teach dog to wave. These skills can easily complement each other and make a seamless transition.
2. Add stick that says, day off. Add three sticks that are blank. These are sticks you will write a new skill or behavior on and add to the box.
3. Each week add at least three new sticks to the box.
This box can be used over and over again and include all sorts of training from dog sports to mentally stimulating activities. It is a fun way to pick and go. The 3×5 cards are to record the training session. It should include the stick instruction, the date and time of each session and the results and any other comments. This card will keep training progressive as reviewing it will indicate where you left off in the training. Information can be included on the card, such as a web site where a video of what skill is being trained can be reviewed or a prop needed for next time. It is a great way to stay motivated and keep ideas flowing for future training sessions.
Motivation Two: The Sunday Starry night list
1. Either insert a table into a document or write a table on colorful cardboard or paper.
2. Clip board and a three-ring binder notebook.
3. Computer or black marker.
4. Stars or other fun stickers, such as ones of dogs
1. Create a day-by-day schedule of what training sessions will be completed the following week.
2. To make it more fun, create a theme for the week. For instance, tricks week or circus week or focus on dog dog reactivity and the steps to help dog cope with real life.
3. Left side should list at least seven activities, skills to be worked on.
4. Top should list Monday through Sunday. Allow one day off.
NOTE: You can, of course, reverse the columns with days of the week to the left and activities at the top. Leave room for notes or use sticky notes to make comments, record results or write out what needs work.
Use the stars when the day’s activity has been completed. Each star is worth $1.00. When you have ten stars, take your dog out and buy them a toy, a treat or a new piece of equipment. Place stars next to the activity accomplished. Be creative and make the star worth a special hike, or any other reward.
At the end of the week punch holes into the side and put into a notebook for reference later. A clipboard can be used to hang the list wherever it is seen daily and easily accessed, for instance at the bedroom door, the door to go outside or near the refrigerator or office desk.
Motivation Three: The picky dog.
This is similar to the old rubber duck game at the local fair. The ducks become tennis balls or other toys. Fill several tennis balls with slips of paper on which are written the training goals for the day. Make sure there is a big basket of balls and include with the piece of paper a treat for the dog.
Ask the dog to pick a ball. This will be a teaching exercise involving go, get it or fetch, and bring. This activity if done once a day will be eagerly looked forward to by the dog and provide a fun way to keep motivation in the training process. When not being used keep the ball basket or the motivational basket up and out of the way. To be very creative, use balls of varying colors, sizes, shapes. The dog gets to keep and play with the ball or toy they choose for that day and it supplies the direction needed for training, as well as a treat for the dog.
To make this even more fun and interesting, include a special something for yourself such as, a walk to the local coffeehouse with Fido for a latte. This includes a fun activity, a break and a training session and socialization for the dog. It also includes exercise. Start with seven balls and add three to seven each week. Simply replace the training paper into a ball and reuse it. By adding new balls or other toys keeps the fun alive.
Use one or all three of these suggestions for keeping the motivation alive in training the dog, but most of all keep it fun, keep it progressive, keep it positive and keep it successful.