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Motivating Your Dog to Exercise With Treats and Praise

Motivating Your Dog to Exercise With Treats and Praise

The Highs and Lows of Carrot and Stick Training

As a lifelong dog lover and trainer, I’ve seen it all when it comes to motivating our canine companions. From the classic “carrot and stick” approach to the more modern “positive-only” methods, the dog training world is constantly debating the best way to get our pups excited about learning.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been a sucker for an underdog (pun intended). That’s why I’m here today to share a different perspective on dog motivation – one that goes beyond the traditional carrots and sticks.

You see, I used to be a hardcore “carrot person” myself. I’d load up my pockets with treats and dole them out like a Vegas showgirl handing out beads on Bourbon Street. And it worked! My dogs were eager to train, happy to perform, and downright addicted to that sweet, sweet reward.

But then I stumbled upon a book that changed my entire outlook on motivation – Daniel Pink’s “Drive.” In it, he explores the fascinating world of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, and let me tell you, it really got the old gears turning.

The Trouble with Treats

The premise is simple: while extrinsic motivators like treats and toys can be effective in the short term, they can also have a sneaky way of diminishing our dogs’ natural, intrinsic drive to learn and perform. It’s like what happened with those kids and their drawings – the moment the rewards went away, so did their desire to keep creating.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But my dog loves treats! How could that be a bad thing?” And you’re not wrong – treats can be an incredibly powerful tool in the training toolbox. The key is understanding when and how to use them.

The problem arises when we become over-reliant on those external rewards, turning our pups into the canine equivalent of Pavlov’s dogs. Suddenly, no treat means no performance, and we’ve inadvertently trained our dogs to work for the “carrot” rather than the pure joy of learning and pleasing us.

The Power of Praise

So, what’s the solution? Well, it all comes down to tapping into that intrinsic motivation – the stuff that gets your dog’s tail wagging and their eyes shining, even when the treats are long gone.

Enter the power of praise. I’m talking about the kind of enthusiastic, heartfelt approval that makes your pup feel like the best darn dog in the world. The kind that comes straight from your soul, not just a pat on the head and a half-hearted “good boy.”

When you combine that genuine, intrinsic praise with the occasional well-timed treat, magic happens. Your dog isn’t just performing for the food – they’re doing it because they genuinely want to make you happy. And trust me, the bond you’ll build is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

Beyond Carrots and Sticks

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “This all sounds great, but it doesn’t work with my dog!” And let me tell you, I’ve heard that one before. After all, carrots and sticks have been the go-to for motivating animals (and humans) since the dawn of time. They’re easy, they’re effective, and they require little in the way of relationship-building.

But here’s the thing: when that intrinsic motivation is available, those extrinsic motivators can actually do more harm than good. And the good news is, with a little creativity and a whole lot of patience, you can tap into that innate drive that’s already there, just waiting to be unleashed.

So, for the next week, I challenge you to try an experiment: forget the treats, the toys, even the leash (in a safe environment, of course). It’s just you and your dog, and trust me, the results might just surprise you.

You see, by putting more of yourself into the training process – by being more animated, more exciting, more engaged with your pup – you can create a level of motivation that no treat could ever match. It might take a bit more work on your part, but the payoff is a bond that will last a lifetime.

And who knows, you might even rediscover the pure joy of training that got you hooked on dog ownership in the first place. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to and let’s get started on building a better, more rewarding relationship with your furry best friend. Trust me, your dog will thank you for it.

Balancing Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivation

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But wait, I can’t just ditch the treats and toys completely! How am I supposed to train my dog without any external rewards?”

And you’re absolutely right. Extrinsic motivators like treats and toys still have an important place in the training process. The key is finding the right balance and using them strategically to enhance, rather than diminish, your dog’s intrinsic drive.

Here are a few tips to help you walk that fine line:

Use Extrinsic Rewards Sparingly

If you’ve got an effective intrinsic motivator (like that sweet, sweet praise), save the treats for when you really need them. Use them to build drive, reduce resistance, or as an occasional “jackpot” reward to keep your pup on their toes.

Mix It Up

Don’t fall into the trap of always rewarding the same way. Toss the treats, hide them, or make your dog work a little harder to earn them. This unpredictability helps maintain that sense of excitement and anticipation.

Transition to Intermittent Reinforcement

As your dog’s training progresses, start rewarding less frequently. This gradual fading of the extrinsic rewards helps solidify that intrinsic motivation, so your pup keeps performing even when the treats are long gone.

Get Creative with Rewards

Remember, it’s not just about food. Toys, play, and even access to things your dog enjoys can all serve as powerful rewards. The key is finding what really makes your pup’s tail wag.

By mastering this delicate balance, you can harness the best of both worlds – the short-term effectiveness of extrinsic motivators and the long-term, sustainable power of intrinsic drive. And trust me, the results will blow you away.

Putting it All Together

So, there you have it – my take on the age-old debate of carrots versus sticks. And let me tell you, if you’re willing to put in the work, the rewards (pun intended) are truly unbeatable.

Remember, your dog’s natural desire to please and connect with you is already there – you just have to find the right way to tap into it. And by using a strategic blend of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, you can create a training experience that’s not just effective, but downright fun for both of you.

So, what are you waiting for? Head on over to, grab a clicker, and get ready to unleash your dog’s true potential. With a little creativity and a whole lot of praise, you’ll be well on your way to having the most engaged, motivated pup on the block.

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