Insufficiently motivated. Why not work for his food?
I’ve just visited Jake, a delightful, friendly and clever young Cockerpoo. A real character.
What cheerful Jake lacks is self-control. They have given him basic training, but self-control is not about people controlling him or doing tricks. He’s simply not sufficiently motivated.
He eats well, so taking food from his daily quota will do.
The clever dog needs a lot of stimulation in order to receive the fulfilment his breed needs. Working Cocker mixed with Poodle. He generates his own attention and fun with his excited behaviour and demand barking.
He jumps up on family members when they come home for which they reward him with a fuss. More extreme than simply jumping up, he flies all over anyone who visits their house.
At other times they tell him off or to get down. Not only must this be confusing, it doesn’t teach him the behaviour they do want. Jake earns reinforcement from jumping up and any scolding that follows is attention of some sort.
Their challenge will be consistency. Jake lives with large family. Each person must react in the same way when he jumps up at them. They should calmly look away and take no notice of him until he offers the behaviour they want – the behaviour that they will now teach him.
At present he’s not motivated to do this. What’s in it for him?
If he wants attention or play, he simply barks (loudly) until someone reacts and does what he wants.
We did a kind of ‘behaviour MOT’ on Jake and came up with a few things that will improve his life in general and their own.
They will offer him frequent enriching activities so that he doesn’t have to be so demanding. He needs to exercise his brain. Clicker training will help them show him the behaviour that they DO want.
At present he’s simply not motivated to wait calmly for a fuss or to ask politely for something by sitting.
Instead of giving him all his food in a bowl – for doing nothing – they will let him both earn it and work for it. He will then become better motivated.
A well motivated dog is a happy, calmer dog.
We saw how focused Jake became when I worked with him using a clicker and he realised there was something ‘in it’ for him.
(A clicker, by the way, is no magic device. The success is in how we use it, so you need to learn the correct technique. A dog will find the click in itself meaningless).
One of the daughters suggested leaving a clicker and food in the hallway. Then each family member, as they enter the house, can make it quite clear to a now motivated Jake that either ‘feet on the floor’ or sitting politely is what they want.
Mild resource guarding
I was called because Jake had begun to show aggression when he picked up something that he knew would get a result. How would he know? By their own reaction.
His resource guarding isn’t severe yet but it can only get worse unless they change their approach. They should now nip it in the bud with plenty of rewarding exchange games and lessons in ‘give’.
He will soon become thoroughly motivated to share items he has in his mouth or to exchange for something of higher value.
The family should be prepared for things to get worse before they get better as Jake finds his attention seeking behaviour doesn’t work anymore and gets frustrated. When barking no longer brings his chosen result, he may bark more. When jumping up fails to get an enthusiastic welcome, he will intensify his jumping up, I’m sure.
All the time they should remember that to get the behaviour they want, they need to keep Jake motivated. Here is a great little video on the importance of motivation.