Motivating an unmotivated dog


New Member
I have two English Shepherds, both of which are brothers, though from different litters. My oldest, Conner, is 8 months, and the new guy, Puzzle, is 7weeks.

I've grown used to Conner's lack of motivation in training - I thought it was just him.
It seems, however, that his little brother (though much more people orientated) is the same way. I'm hoping someone has ideas for motivation... but I should probably give a bit more detail =)

When Conner (then 12weeks) first arrived at our kennel (where we train service dogs) he was, to say the least, very independent.
-He didn't take food from people - not out of fear, he just didn't care about it
-We could pet him - though on his own terms. He never really saught out attention until about 2 months later. He is still partially this way.
-Walking on a leash? Forget it! He HATED it, and it took me several weeks to get him to comply without him acting like a bucking bronco! - Again, this was not out of fear or uncertainty, this way pure "Don't wanna, Ain't gonna"

He has come a very long way. A lot of this was due to his breeder having kept him alone in a pen for 2 weeks during a very crucial developmental stage (Though we only recently found this out).

ANYWAYS - he still doesn't really care about food. I had to make my own mix of goodies to get him the least bit treat motivated. He is occasionally toy motivated, but not always. And he is definitely not praise motivated. So what else is there? I try to make everything as fun as possible for him, but he would much rather entertain himself. And it's a shame because this dog is WICKED smart

So far, little Puzzle seems to be very similar. He's not very food motivated, nor is he toy motivated. Though, he's only 7weeks old, so who knows what the future may hold as he matures a little more.

I'm open to any suggestions about how to get Conner and Puzzle to enjoy training a little more. I want it to be fun for all involved.


New Member
hi keep looking for the one thing out there that will motivate ur dog a fav. food a fav. toy a came of fetch or check his diet
might need a higher quality food


New Member
They are both on a very high quality food that you can't even find in petstores.
As far as walks, they are both service dogs in training and go out and about several times a day.

Bonding isn't a problem - Conner alerts me daily when I need my meds and even tells me several minutes before an asthma attack. As far as basic obedience, it's there. And he knows well over 30 commands, he just doesn't enjoy doing them.


Honored Member
Staff member
Zeke was like this when he was a pup, except he would do ANYTHING to get attention. He wanted to be loved desperately. Didnt care about treats(he barely ate his food), didnt care about toys... When he was about a year old, we got Mudflap--who is crazy for toys. From that day forward he was obsessed with tennis balls.
It's really tough to motivate a dog who isn't motivated by anything. If he cared enough, you could try teaching him to like toys. Click for the slightest interest in the toy, and gradually ask for more. Or, if you know someone with dogs who like toys, maybe bring both dogs(either together or separately), and just play with the other dog.
Silvia Trkman(YouTube sensation "yolle555") did this with her Border Collie, Bu. She said Bu didnt seem to know or have any desire to play. So she had Bu watch while she played with her other dogs, until she got really riled up and tired of getting left out of the fun. Might try something like this with your two boys?
Hope this helps!


Experienced Member
I see that this is an old thread, but I was wondering if you were successful training your two puppies. Did you find a motivator?