Positive Reinforcement can only work by finding a suitable reward for good behavior. If you are having a hard time getting your dog to focus in a setting, first assess the situation. Are there too many distractions? Is something more rewarding than the treat? If so, work farther away from the dog’s threshold by decreasing distraction, distance or duration of the behavior you are asking for. If this is a common occurance when training, try a smellier, meatier treat that might be more enticing. If that doesn’t work, your dog may not be as treat motivated as some. Not to worry, there are many other ways to reward behavior! If your dog isn’t as motivated by treats, simply find another method of motivation.
Some dogs love attention more than treats. Try using petting and excited recognition whenever your dog performs the behavior you are looking for. Make sure to also take all attention away (and even walk away if necessary) when your dog isn’t behaving in a manner you like.
Other pups are motivated by movement and love being on the go. One great way to reward these active dogs is to take off in a run with them as soon as they perform the behavior you want. For example, if you are working on reactivity towards other dogs, start running in the opposite direction the second you see another dog (before your dog even has a chance to react).
If your dog is more motivated by toys and playtime, that can Easily be used as a reward as well. Always have a fun toy, ball or chew on you and interact with these toys whenever your dog is exhibiting positive behavior. Throw the ball or play a quick game of tug-of-war as soon as you see the behavior you are looking for.
Even if treats do work, it’s useful and exciting to switch things up a bit. Try using these other techniques alongside treats. Make sure to always be communicating by voice and with your own body language. Most importantly, have fun and your dog will too!