It can certainly be frustrating when you ask your dog to do something and your dog doesn’t do it. And it can be extra frustrating when it’s a behavior that you’ve asked for many times in the past. Why does your dog respond sometimes but not other times? There can be many reasons why, but here are three. 1. Motivation Without motivation, we won’t get any behavior. This is true for all animals, including us. If we look at our dogs and ask them to do something and never provide consequences, behaviorally speaking, it makes no sense to do the behavior. If you give something to your dog that they like after they do a behavior, it’s likely that the behavior will be repeated. If what you give is really good, the behavior will probably happen even quicker. If you find yourself constantly asking for behaviors but never dishing it out after, you’re setting yourself up for frustration because you’re not following the rules of learning. To help set yourself up to succeed, have treat jars in your home where you commonly ask for behaviors. Try to get the behavior to happen first and then reach for a treat and reward the behavior. Doing it this way will help get your dog to respond without having to see the motivation first!
To help set yourself up to succeed, have treat jars in your home where you commonly ask for behaviors.
2. Lack of understanding If you’re in a new scenario and your dog isn’t responding, it may be due to a lack of understanding. The thing is, dogs don’t generalize well. Learning how to do a behavior inside your home isn’t the same thing as doing a behavior outside your home. To help your dog succeed, follow a 3 step system. The first step is a lure/reward. The second step is a hand signal/reward. The final step is a verbal cue/reward. When in a new environment, if your dog isn’t responding to what you’re asking, go back to the prior step. If you’re asking for a sit and it’s not happening, give the hand signal for sit. Your dog may be more likely to respond to the hand signal. Be sure to reward! The more you practice the behaviors you’ve taught in different scenarios, the more likely your dog is to start to generalize it.
3. Asking for too much Sometimes we get greedy and just flat out ask for too much. We ask our dogs to do 5 or 6 behaviors in a row and for the first few behaviors, our dogs are engaged and ready to go. But after tacking on another couple of requests, our dog’s motivation starts to wane. It’s actually pretty cool how dogs are willing to do multiple behaviors for 1 reward. But it’s very easy for us to get into the habit of asking for a lot and paying a little. We have to remember the rules of learning. Behavior happens for a reason. If we’re not providing the reason, behavior will not happen.