I’m always happy to post good content for both trainers and owners alike. Tony is a fellow IMDT trainer (he was one of my assessors) and he has kindly given me permission to post his article. I’ll be publishing one of his articles each fortnight.
Tony Cruse is a dog trainer and the owner of Tc Dog Training based in Essex. He is a member of The Association of Pet Dog Trainers and The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers, and the author of ‘101 Doggy Dilemmas’. Tony works on training and behaviour on a full-time basis.
“Well done, praise your dogs’”
You may have heard that line used in dog training classes. But ask yourself…is praise alone a sufficient reward for what your dog had just done? Let’s look a little deeper into what a reward is and why we need to reward when training.
The word ‘reward’ is defined as, ‘a thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement’. But a reward should also be reinforcing, which means the reward, which follows the dog’s behaviour, should maintain the response in future and/or make it more likely to occur. If a ‘sit’ is rewarded correctly, the next time you ask for a sit, it will not only be performed by your dog but it could occur quicker.
Often we select a reward we believe the dogs wants. If you’ve had a good week at work and your boss gives you a bunch of flowers and you are allergic to flowers…would that make you work as well next week? Your boss believes it’s a reward! What if he presented you with your favorite bottle of wine? Similarly, many dogs are not ‘tactile’ which is noticeable because they back off from physical praise. This means the recall that you have just fussed your dog for will unlikely to be repeated and may not improve.
Food is a necessity and most dogs enjoy eating, why not use it to reward? Also, unclipping the lead can be a huge reward; it’s opportunity to go off sniffing and romping. You could request a sit or a down and then reward it by unclipping. I have heard of an owner who carries a grooming brush because her dog loves to be brushed. After a good recall, she pulls it out and brushes him. Use what your dog enjoys to reward good behaviour.
Are you using a decent reward? Get to know your dog and have a think about your dog’s favorite things. Use them as rewards and your training will improve!
Types of rewards you can use, which can be different for each dog
- Pieces of your dogs dry food (breakfast at the park?)
- Small pieces of tasty food (chicken, low-fat cheese, livercake)
- A game with a tennis ball or favourite toy
- Opening the door to the garden
- Unclipping the lead
- The chance to play with another dog
- Greeting a family member
- A Belly rub
Tony Cruse, Tc Dog Training.