Five Tips on using Incentives to Train Your Dog

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Today’s A to Z Challenge letter “I” post is about Incentive and how to use Incentives to train your dog. Having Labs, using food as incentives comes natural, but what if your dog doesn’t find food that attractive, how do you incorporate incentives into your training program?

It’s important to motivate your dog to learn. Even ‘smart’ breeds like Border Collies need incentives to keep learning and to be excited about learning (just like your kids). We’ve provided some resources about using incentives, and to incentivize you to read it, we kept it short and sweet.


Five tips on using incentives in training your dog:

  1. Find the RIGHT incentive to motivate your dog. Some dogs are very food motivated, some are toy driven. Find what gets your dog’s attention the quickest and keeps them focused – THAT’S the incentive you want to use.
  2. Restrict access to the incentive and use it only during training times.
  3. Keep the incentives coming as long as the dog is doing what you want.
  4. Withold the incentive if the dog becomes over excited or too focused on the incentive and no longer focused on you
  5. Timing: Enjoy the time spent with your dog and make it fun…stop before he loses interest in the incentive.


Additional Resources


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  1. Training both Boys at the same time seem to be another great incentive. With a ton of praise after a successful response to a command, the other dog becomes so eager to try. I alternate with praise and treats. I’m just not sure if I am doing the right thing or doing them a disservice by training together…. Thanks for the post.

  2. Excellent tips! For me, momma uses special treats and toys.
    Garth Riley recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: April SnowMy Profile

  3. Mom uses fun and praise and treats, kind of alternates. We also train together with the obedience stuff, making us all more eager to do what is asked on our turn so we get what the other one got. Mom also chops up the rewards into real tiny pieces…like a Zukes mini in four pieces, really! For new or harder stuff, the rewards are more special and a bit larger like a small hotdog piece. It works for us!
    Emma recently posted…Spring Fun Stuff | GBGV | Barks & BytesMy Profile

  4. Finding the incentive is key. It’s amazing what the right ‘tool’ will do in changing a dog’s behavior. I might also add that finding the right food is important as well. For Delilah the food driven Lab I have to be careful not to use a high value food when trying to teach simple skills. She gets so excited about the food, that she cannot focus on her task. 🙂
    Jodi recently posted…Loud and ClearMy Profile

  5. Oh and thank you for joining the blog hop!!!
    Jodi recently posted…Loud and ClearMy Profile

  6. Great tips! It wasn’t until we got the puppy that I began restricting the treats until training. Treats are great incentives for our dogs. We’re finding, though, that we have to put the big dogs away to train the puppy. They crowd him out.
    Flea recently posted…I is for Ingested, A to Z ChallengeMy Profile

  7. Eko is about as food-motivated as them come. If thieves broke into my house and they gave him treats he would help them carry the couches out.

  8. Great tips! I have found that our incentive doesn’t need to be food, but it helps. Luna actually just learned high five from praise alone! Conversely, food that is too delicious will completely break her attention. She just wants to eat it.

  9. You know, you had me thinking about incentives, and my dog is extremely toy driven. I’ve been using treats to motivate him to pay attention to me on walks, and I really should probably be using a ball or a squeaker. He loves food, but toys are even better!
    Lindsay recently posted…How to help someone who’s scared of dogsMy Profile

  10. Great tips! I agree with what someone already said – training Rosie with either of the boys really amps things up because she learns so much faster watching them.
    Sue recently posted…New Dog Lover Book Recovered by Amber Polo | Book ReviewMy Profile

  11. Thanks so much for joining the hop! 🙂 Great ideas on incentives. We also use the retrieve as an incentive (and if there is a duck involved, that offers even more incentive).
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–No RestMy Profile

  12. We are so lucky that our dogs are so food motivated – sometimes too much, because they’ll be so distracted by the treat that they’ll throw all their tricks at us. Rodrigo is very much praise motivated (so was Blue) so I love that when he does something good, he comes straight to me for a hug and praise 🙂

    Zoey? – she’s treat motivated.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Inconsistencies Drove Me to Raw Dog Food #PawNaturalMy Profile

    • YEah, Jack gets pretty wound up to with treats, but he’ll sure do whatever we want for one.
      mkob recently posted…FitDOG Fitness Quiz Winners!My Profile

  13. Incentives are key, aren’t they? We use treats for some kinds of training and toys/play for agility training. Our dogs love training due to the incentives!
    KB recently posted…Springtime and Shyla’s DietMy Profile

  14. Excellent information! I really like #5-Timing. I think it’s important for humans to realize that they should stop before they lose interest–and patience–too. Look at that . . . information, important, and interest. I’m getting a little crazy with this A to Z thing. 😉
    Miss Harper Lee recently posted…Harper Lee from A to Z: I is for INCHESMy Profile

    • I know – it’s funny how I’ve become so much more tuned into the words I’m using and comments…funny.
      mkob recently posted…8 Tips on How to Jog with your DogMy Profile

  15. Great tips, I love to use treats to teach heeling with a puppy they do so much better and pick up on it so fast along with my downs and stays. I tried to use treats out in the field when doing our hunt test training and they had nothing to do with it they were to focused on the bird they were having nothing to do with the treats as a reward for a job well done.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…FitDog Friday~Open Water With See Beautiful~Glory GirlMy Profile

  16. Great tips. I’m having to adjust my incentives for the shelter dog I work with. I wasn’t getting anywher e with a clicker and treats. (I might have to bring more delectable treats. Who knew he’d be so discriminating?). He goes nuts for a ball, but gets too excited and tries to jump up and grab it from me. Since I leave the leash on him, I stand on it to keep him from jumping, and hide the ball behind my back until I get what I want (which is a sit). So far, so good.
    Kari recently posted…J is for the Joy of Jolly BallsMy Profile

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