When the dog won't pay attention
Sometimes a dog can seem to be unmotivated by food, or too distracted to train. The following procedure will help troubleshoot training of dogs who seem difficult to motivate.
YOU WILL NEED:
A variety of high-value food (meat, cheese, etc.)
A variety of toys (for toy-motivated dogs)
If a dog seems unmotivated or distracted during training, offer the dog a high-value treat “for free.” If he takes it, he is motivated by that treat. If not, try out other, higher-value treat types.
If the dog won’t take any type of food, stop trying to train him for a while. He might be full, tired, frightened, or ill. Occasionally, using a toy or game (e.g. fetch or tug) might be more motivating to a dog than food.
Assuming the dog is healthy, the following steps can help keep the dog engaged:
Increase the “currency” and/or the dog’s “pay rate”:
Use higher value treats (e.g., chicken or cheese instead of biscuits or other treats made for dogs);
Train faster (less time between repetitions);
Change motivator type. If a dog is toy crazy, a toy can be used as the reinforcer;
Increase the value of food motivators by training when the dog is hungry, rather than right after a meal.
MAKE IT EASIER
Follow the “grading rules” on the training plan. For most training plans these are:
2. Move away from distractions to train in a quieter environment.
3. Decrease the value of distractions by allowing the dog access to those distractions for a while. For example,
allow the dog the play, meet other dogs, investigate the area, go for a walk, etc., before starting to train
Move to the next step if the dog gets at least 4 of 5 repetitions correct;
If the dog gets 3 of 5 repetitions right, repeat the current step (another set of 5);
If the dog gets 2 or fewer of 5 repetitions correct, drop to the previous step.