The foundation of good dog training is positive reinforcement. We provide a reward to the dog after we mark the behaviour we liked, in order to increase the likelihood that they’ll do it again. Once they’re offering the behaviour consistently, we phase the reward out.
Different types of rewards have their uses, and it really entirely depends on what the perceived value of a reward is to begin with. Some dogs love food, some dogs love toys, some dogs love affection, some dogs love to destroy things, some dogs love all of the above, while other dogs appear to love not much at all.
It’s important that you identify and use what your dog loves the most and use it for your training. The more incentive you provide your dog with, the more successful and reliable their training will become.
You wouldn’t go to work for free, or to end up with less than you need to survive, so why would you expect your dog to perform tricks or make real behavioural changes for peanuts?
Panzer is highly food motivated and she’ll do anything for her regular food. This means I don’t use chicken/hotdogs/cheese as a ‘high value reward’ for training. On the other hand, her ball/tug drive started off very low and it has taken months of training to build it to a stage where I can just now use a toy as a motivator for training. She had an affinity for slippers so I began using that and gradually transitioned it towards different types of tugs and balls.
Saying your dog isn’t motivated by anything (unless they’re senior or have health issues) so you can’t train them is a cop-out. If your dog doesn’t appear to be motivated by anything, this is typically because they have access to so much already and you’ve removed any incentive to want to work or learn.
Find what motivates your dog. Make what motivates them even more valuable by only using it for training. Let them earn what they want by working for it and then really reward their effort by letting them have it.