Modern dog trainers advocate reward based training rather than exerting dominance over your pet to elicit good behaviour. But many people still don’t understand what reward training means. Let’s look at the various ways we can reward our dogs for good behaviour.
In the same way that you don’t work without reward, neither will your dog. Whether it’s a job for which you receive a salary, or voluntary work which is altruistic and affords a different sense of reward.
So the same applies to dogs. When we are asking a puppy to learn basic obedience tasks, or a rehomed older dog to understand a new routine, we can’t expect them to do it without reward. And the reward needs to be equal to the task at hand. Basic pay for basic work – enhanced pay for advanced tasks.
Treats are a great reward for many dogs, but think about what you are asking and pay them accordingly. Learn the heirarchy of treats and get your dog working to scale! If you are teaching a simple command in an easy environment, then a little biscuit will suffice.
Once you start increasing the complexity of the task, or make the setting more challenging, your dog will require something more interesting than a biscuit. This is where soft meaty treats come into their own.
Finally, if you are asking a lot from your dog, such as recall from a group of dogs, then you had better make it worth his while – dried liver is a firm favourite of many.
Food based treats only work if your dog is a food oriented dog. But if your dog isn’t that fussed about working for food, then find out what he does want. Most dogs are interested in one of the three Fs: Food, Fun or Friendship.
If treats don’t tempt your dog, then perhaps a squeaky toy will get the behaviour you want. Some dogs can’t resist a game of tug with their owner and would do anything to get a bit of Fun. Of course you will need to use an excitable high-pitched voice to really get him going!
The final F is Friendship, and some dogs simply crave human interaction and would do anything for a belly rub or bit of fuss from their owner. Again, you will need to make yourself as appealing as you can and master different levels of fuss relative to the task required.
Reward Based Training
If you are still struggling to get your dog’s attention, then why not book some time with our trainer Tom – either on a 121 basis or as part of an obedience class. Find out more information on the training page.