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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Do you reward your dog?

In dog training we use rewards to tell our dogs that they have done the right thing and to increase the likelihood of that particular behaviour being repeated. There are several different ways to reward your dog and your dog may prefer one or other method at any given time so it is important to discover what motivates your dog to work and what they find rewarding. Find out what makes your dog’s tail wag the most!

Food treats are a good way to reward your dog because they are immediate and innately rewarding but find out what type of food your dog likes best and bring a selection of different foods. However, quickly try to use some or all of the things below so you keep your rewards versatile.
Play is also innately rewarding so find out what type of play suits your dog and its breed and what they like to play best. Try to make the play interactive with you rather than giving them a toy to go and play with by themselves. You don’t always need a toy to play with your dog as some dogs enjoy running around and ‘being silly’ with you just as much.
Verbal praise is also be rewarding for your dog but dogs need to learn very early on that this is a good thing so spend time telling them how lovely they are and what a good girl or boy they are just before you give them a treat for dong what you want and they will soon learn to associate your praise with being a good thing.

Physical fuss for some dogs is very rewarding but remember not all dogs liked to be touched while working and sometimes there are places on their bodies they don’t enjoy being touched so find out by watching what your dog does when you fuss them. If they move away from your touch it usually means they are not really enjoying it.

There will also be lots of things in the environment your dog finds rewarding, like going for a swim, having a sniff, getting to play with a friend so make sure you build these into your reward strategy too by asking your dog for a behaviour for the reward of getting what they find rewarding.

Every dog is different and what your dog finds rewarding may differ from mine and even between dogs in the same household there will be differences. There may even be differences in what motivates your dog depending on the time of day, the location you are training and the mood they are in.

The important thing to observe your dog closely and watch what he really enjoys moment by moment and to try to capture and use what your dog finds motivating in your training and general life with your dog.

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