Common Myths About Motivating your Agility Dog

August 11, 2013 at 1:59 am 1 comment

Hi everyone! Today I decided to blog about one of my favourite and most heart-felt topics: Motivation.

People seem to think that my dogs come out of the box driven to do agility, but the truth is that my border collie Heist is the only dog that I have not had to put serious work into motivating behind the scenes.   

So today I’ve decided to write debunk some common myths about motivation.  Ready? Here we go!

Myth #1: Your dog MUST tug in order to run fast.

I know people that have spent incredible amounts of time and shed endless tears over trying to get their dogs to tug. Is your dog destined to be an agility failure because they won’t tug with you? Absolutely not! This is a total MYTH! Yes you want your dog to interact with you, but this can take many forms. Many people have actually decreased their dog’s motivation for agility by trying to force them to tug.  Remember…agility is supposed to be fun for you and the dog! So if you find yourself falling into the “tug or else” category…give yourself a reminder of why you’re in this sport in the first place.

Myth #2: The faster you run the faster your dog will run:

There is definitely an element of truth in this, because most dogs are motivated to chase you. The issue is that if you get too far ahead of your dog they will usually slow down because you’re not within reach. I myself actually did this a lot when I did track and field as a kid. If the other kids got too far ahead of me in the race and I knew that I would not place then I didn’t even try to beat them. Most dogs with run faster when you are just far enough ahead that they might actually catch you!

Myth #3: Rewarding everything will make your dog run faster

Many people I see attempt to fix their motivation problem by rewarding their dogs more often. I’m not saying that rewarding is a negative thing…but over rewarding actually tends to disconnect the dog from the joys of running. To make matters worse, many people reward the dog when they get something wrong to prevent them from shutting down. This actually perpetuates the problem as the dog is getting mixed signals about what is right and wrong.

These common motivational myths can distract you from the real keys to motivation.

The biggest key of all to motivating your dog is to GENUINELY have fun!

I don’t mean running around PRETENDING you are having a great time while inwardly cursing your dog for not running fast for you.  

Remember…

“ A Champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning” –Pat Riley.

Happy Training,

Jess Martin

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Start Lines: What’s your body language telling your dog? How’d I get Here?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Michelle  |  August 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    GREAT post Jessica. Your rule no. 1 I couldn’t agree more and sadly see this happening. Fun is so key, I really liked your seminar and tips you gave us when you came to Ottawa. I hope you come back soon!!

    Reply

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