Don’t Try to Fit a Square Peg into a Round Hole

If a dog does not enjoy their job, they won’t be motivated to do it. Dogs need to be passionate about their work in order to be motivated. If they do not enjoy the job they are doing, then they will just go through the motions because they were told to, rather than because they want to. Their breed also cannot necessary determine the type of work they will enjoy or the type of motivation that they need. Find the things that your dog enjoys doing and expand on the action, this will motivate them to work.

Originally, I wanted to be able to do agility courses with Odin because of the association between border collies and their agility/speed, however I quickly discovered that he does not like the feeling of strange materials under his feet. He was not motivated to go through the course because of his dislike for the way plastic/wooden ramps and teeter totters felt on his feet. So, agility would not be a good job for him and he would not have been motivated to work.

Finding the right type of motivation means learning how to read your dog. Rather than forcing them into a job, work towards finding something that they enjoy and let that joy motivate them to work. By watching their movements and facial expressions, you can determine what draws your dog’s attention the most.


Playing fetch is one of Odin’s favorite jobs. He is able to focus his energy on the ball. The amount of enjoyment he gets from being focused during fetch led me to explore rally obedience which relies heavily on focus/attention work. There are no platforms or ramps to deter Odin from being motivated to work, and rally course work plays on his passion for focusing. During rally, he focuses his attention on me, my movements, and what I am asking him to do. By the end of the course he is more tired from completing his job then he is after a three-mile run. He is mentally satisfied by the work he is doing and enjoys doing the work. He has started to apply his rally obedience and focus work during walks, looking to me for direction, rather than focusing on the environment around him. Odin’s face lights up like a kid on Christmas morning whenever he sees a tennis ball or is working his way through a rally course.


Don’t try and force your dog into doing a job they do not like or enjoy. Anxiety and fear may build up if they are forced into a job they do not like. Let their individual traits and interests lead you towards finding the right job and motivators for them. Some dogs will enjoy playing fetch, others may find enjoyment using their nose or doing focus work. Play to your dog’s strengths and interests; this will lead to them living a happy, fulfilling life.

Please comment below on some of the things that motivate your dog or some of the jobs they enjoying doing! Puppy tax (a photo of your pup) is also greatly encouraged!

2 thoughts on “Don’t Try to Fit a Square Peg into a Round Hole”

  1. Great Post Arianna,
    I have a Australian Cattle that I trained to be my multi-day hiking companion. She was never very keen on learning the commands but I would reward her with herding sheep at a friends place. She enjoyed learning from the other Cattle dogs and I believe it made her more focus when having to perform our training route.


    1. Hi Natalie,
      Thanks for commenting! Sheep herding is something I would like to try one day. It is great that you had sheep nearby for her to herd. I wish I had the opportunity to do this for Odin, however I haven’t been able to find anything near us. It is great that you were able to find something that she loves to do and that can be used to motivate her to train!


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