At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, I always ensure I warn people about killing their dog’s drive through obedience training.
When many people come through our dog obedience training program in Virginia, they are so excited to have their new, listening, well-behaved, and good mannered dog. With our training sessions, we tell people to practice about 30-40 minutes per day in the week in-between sessions and slowly phase in distractions as the dog and they (the owner) become better at the concepts.
One mistake that we see people unknowingly make is that they will start killing their dog’s drive by working their dog on obedience while using something the dog is highly motivated by as the distraction. In my opinion, this is a horrible thing to do.
Let me explain the situation so you can see exactly what I mean. Let’s say you have a German Shepherd who is highly ball motivated, okay? So, since you know that the ball is a huge distraction for your German Shepherd (because he LOVES it), you try to make him sit, down, or place as you throw his ball. Of course, he is going to jump up to go chase it, so doing what you think is right, you correct him back into the sit, down, or place. This is very bad to do.
Probably within a matter of 10 minutes or less, you will undoubtedly succeed at being able to leave your dog in a command, you throw the ball, and he will not leave that command. So, you think you have done a great job, right? You are getting obedience out of him with the presence and excitement of one of his biggest distractions.
However, what this can do is kill your dog’s drive. At our dog training facility in Northern Virginia, I will NEVER use an object that the dog is highly motivated by (ball, tug, etc) as a distraction. You will see numerous videos on our YouTube Channel where I throw things over their heads, bang on stuff, run around, etc; however, you will never see me using a ball or tug as the distraction.
By doing this drill, you are simply teaching your dog, “Anytime you go after this toy you love, you will get corrected for it.” So, what does your dog very quickly learn? “Stop chasing after that toy.”
So, anytime you are working your dog with distractions, never use something as a distraction that your dog is highly motivated for, this is a great way to start killing their drive for this object.
I will always incorporate that object as a REWARD for the obedience, never a DISTRACTION for the obedience.
For example, I will put them in a sit, down, place (etc), run around, make some noises, and throw stuff around. After they hold that position, I will release them (we use the word “break”) and then I will throw that tug or ball as their reward for the good obedience. Doing this helps BUILD their drive for the object, which is what you want.