This category of motivators is one that many people overlook but has many useful suggestions that can turn even the most independent or reluctant dog into a keen and willing partner with its owner. By managing the dog's routine so that it gains these environmental motivators the INSTANT it does something correctly, it is possible to harness the dog's enthusiasm for the Life Reward with what it is being taught.


Let us look at the psyche and drives that make up the Dog -

Instincts explains that dogs have different levels of drives and compulsions that dogs find rewarding or stimulating to possess.


Most of these instincts can be satisfied by the dog exploring its environment -

  • its sense of SMELL to analyze the different air scents; ground scents; tracks; and wind directions
  • its sense of TASTE by breathing in air molecules; scavenging; eating its meals; drinking water and other liquids from a variety of locations
  • its sense of SIGHT from focusing on the movement of objects, animals or the environment around it; being able to trust its incredible fast reactions to avoid obstacles as it runs through dense undergrowth, woodland etc
  • its sense of TOUCH from the temperature on its body; the different textures its paws, mouth and whiskers touch; the sensations and freedom it feels while running through grass, woods etc and over obstacles
  • its sense of HEARING as it listens to all the different frequencies (many of which our human ears cannot hear) that both nature and man make; many dogs love the challenge of picking up on the slightest sound as forms of communication between them and their owner (such as clicker training, or handlers whispering commands (see Praise))


All these senses can be used and revelled in while the dog is out on walks (even with the restrictions of being held by a lead) which is why so many dogs find even the most painful sensations of pulling on their lead bearable as the environmental reward is so worthwhile.


Similarly, by allowing the dog the freedom to explore its environment at the beginning of DOG-GAMES training it is able to use all its senses and is content to work with the owner for motivators that they give instead (such as Food, Toys or Praise) as these are now more interesting and rewarding than the training environment.


All dogs have an extremely strong "survival" drive that makes them want to repeat an action that is of benefit to them. These resources can also be used as very effective motivators -

  • FOOD & DRINK - see Food and Treat Boxes
  • ATTENTION - almost every dog finds eye contact with their owners extremely rewarding, as well as the various aspects of Praise
  • the SAFETY & COMPANY OF ITS "PACK"- Dogs are by nature pack animals who delegate and share the different responsibilities and tasks that they instinctively feel they need to do to live harmoniously within that pack. Pet dogs regard the humans and animal companions that live in their "territory" as their Pack (which is why guarding behaviour is very common), and strive to keep the relationships and stress levels low enough so that they can cope - they do this by displaying calming signals.
  • INTERACTION with other dogs. Dogs enjoy communicating with other dogs, whether it is by displaying calming signals, barking, through off-lead play, or just passing one another while out walking. Dogs spend most of their lives trying to understand what we humans want them to do, it must be very refreshing for them to meet others of their species and communicate freely without misunderstandings or confusion!
  • SLEEP and the ability to relax - dogs are like the rest of the animal kingdom - if given the chance and low enough stress levels they would chose to sleep, rest or relax for the majority of their days and nights - this is why indoor kennels/dog cages are so popular with so many dogs. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles and man-made restraints of time and routine make this simple resource almost impossible for dogs to attain. Too many dogs live in over-stimulating environments (eg dogs having unrestricted access to windows so that they feel compelled to either watch or guard their Pack's territory; humans coming and going all day; the constant background noise of radios, TVs, traffic, humans talking etc; dogs being over-trained with dog sports because the owners use the sessions for their social benefits rather than for the benefit of the dog).

By looking closely at all these aspects of our dogs lives we can often use many of these Life Rewards to help reward our dogs for good behaviour.

The wonderful benefit of using these Life Rewards as motivators is that the dogs see us humans as their protectors and providers, and they then feel able to relax and enjoy these "rewards" because of the effort they made to work for them. The dogs begin to relax and rest more, and pass on the responsibilities of providing these resources to us humans while their long-term stress levels drop dramatically.


This web site has been written by Sally Hopkins (unless the author of the web page is stated otherwise).


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