Welcome back, Readers! I find it a little hard to believe a week has already gone by and we are back together again! As mentioned, this week, I wanted to dig into a couple quick points on how and why to choose specific training rewards.
This topic for some has connotations equivalent to ‘What is the meaning of life????’ and for others, ‘This is what was on sale and this is what you are getting.’
This important training point is one that is on my top ten list of most frequently asked questions from folks new to training with me that I cover most often, in depth, before we even step one paw into a training area.
Because I am a positive method reinforcement trainer, it is a significant topic for me and a foundation need that must be met. It is as important as having a buckle collar and a six foot lead – quite honestly to me, choosing your dog’s reward is more important.
The key to choosing a training reward is the value proposition to the dog. This is where training reward choices becomes a little like selling a used car and you are the salesman and your dog is the prospective new car buyer. You are selling the proposition of ‘why’ your dog should do anything for you – what’s in it for him to do anything? I so often chuckle inside at the glazed over expressions from so many as I open this discussion. I can almost hear their inner voices shouting, “OMG my trainer is nuts! It’s a dog, lady! You give it to them, they like it!”
Dogs are Self-Serving
It is here that I tell people something that seems frequently to surprise them about their dogs. I have found over the years that all dogs, regardless of breed, drive, size, ambition, activity level or temperament have one thing universally in common; they are all very self-serving individuals.
All dogs do what they do to get what they want over what we want them to do for or with us.
There is only one thing that I will ever say applies to all dogs and that is it. Like us, every dog is an individual, a different personality, different likes and dislikes, preferences for who they spend time with, games they like to play, where and when they want to sleep, toys to play with, what to eat, activities they really prefer to do, and things they want. Every dog I have ever met over the years has had preferences and they demonstrate those preferences every single day just like we do.
Find What Your Dog Loves
I challenge folks to just observe their dogs in daily life for a week. List out what your dog goes ‘ga-ga’ over.
- Is it your voice praising them?
- Is it their favorite toy that they willingly propel themselves through the air for just to have for 5 minutes of play?
- Is it a soft treat from a bag that is the equivalent of what a White Castle Hamburger does for me?
- Is it a piece of leftover chicken from your dinner last night that sends them into a bouncing, barking, flip over frenzy?
Every dog has something in life that elicits this response, every dog. When you watch them, you will very quickly find something on the list that they will show they cannot live without and will do anything to earn from you. I am forever entertained by the feedback from this activity and the fascination that ensues when people discover how much their dogs have their own individual personalities.
But what is important is that it is here that you find your value proposition. This is where you find your top reward, your middle of the road reward and your ‘so-so’ reward – but it is still a reward that has value to your dog. Your most precious training aid is this information about your dog. The knowledge of what means most to your dog and what you bestow upon them for their efforts.
For now, I send you back out into the world from our little corner and challenge you to watch your dogs. Post what you are seeing, I love to hear stories of what you see as you watch your dogs! As for me, I’m headed back into the kitchen. One of the things my dogs value most are my homemade soft training treats, a batch of which have been baking in the oven and are ready to come out!!!!
Next Week …
What we do with this information is our topic for next week.
- How to leverage the different values of rewards
- Importance of timing rewards in training
- Why these are so important to our dogs as it helps build drive and performance