How are you rewarding your dog? 2015 has been a big year at our house for training for our tracking and nose work sports. Rewarding your dog seems so simple, most people don’t think much about it, but when you have a dog like Bailie who totally loses her motivation for sports, Mom decided to reevaluate our training and rewarding system. She is not a professional trainer, but the past few months she has gotten some good tips from trainers that have paid off and I wanted to share them with you.
The main thing with training, be it obedience, sports, whatever, is to make it a fun game for your dog. You can reward all you want, but if the dog isn’t seeing what you are doing as a fun game, it isn’t going to work very well. People tend to get into the same old rut, with the same rewards, and higher and higher expectations which often leads to a dog losing interest. Mom knew Bailie could track, so she expected her to track more and longer tracks for the same reward. It was boring, no fun for Bailie, so Bailie quit being the tracking dog she could be. With the tips below, Bailie got back to work in tracking and nose work and is working like a pro!
7 Tips To Successfully Rewarding Your Dog
1 – Different Types of Rewards
Rewards don’t have to be just food. You have to know your dog. For some dogs, a toy is a great reward, for some, they want affection.
2– High Value vs. Low Value Rewards
Don’t save all your high value rewards for the hardest work. Give your dog high value rewards randomly for easy as well as hard training. If your dog does “sit” like a pro, give him the high value reward for “sit” now and then. There is nothing wrong with rewarding big for easy or basic behavior. Never just expect your dog will do something because they know how. Keep that game aspect going, make “sit” fun, even when it is easy.
3– Use A Reward Mix
If your dog likes chicken, that’s great, but don’t give your dog chicken as a reward every time. Vary the rewards with high value, bigger rewards, smaller ones, keep your dog guessing as to what he is working for. Even chicken lovers like something different now and then.
4– Count The Rewards
Dogs can count, sort of. When you are rewarding your dog, give them one piece of food at a time. Many people give their dog a handful of treats mistakenly thinking the dog sees it as a big, huge reward. Wrong, the dog sees it as one reward. You are better off giving him three or four pieces of a reward, one at a time.
5– Keep The Dog Guessing
No matter what the level of training, keep your dog guessing. Sometimes give him one reward, sometimes four, sometimes just some praise. The unknown helps keep the fun in the game for the dog. Mom used this tactic a lot with Bailie and tracking. She started putting extra articles on the tracks. Sometimes there was a reward with the article, sometimes Bailie got a reward after finding the article, and sometimes she got praise and was told to move on.
6– Don’t Forget The Easy Day
Do you enjoy being pushed and pushed to do better without a break? Dogs do not. Dogs are not machines and just because they can do something doesn’t mean you should push them to keep doing more and especially not for the same reward. Every now and then, throw in a super easy basic day of training and reward your dog big! Show your dog everything they do is worth a reward. After an easy day with big rewards, they will work harder for you the next time.
7– The 30 Second Reward
Do a simple training exercise, and then reward your dog for thirty seconds. Yes, thirty seconds! It doesn’t mean stuffing them with food the entire time, use some food, praise, snuggling, maybe a toy, but reward your dog for an entire thirty seconds. This is something to do maybe once a month if you are training. Your dog will love it and it will help motivate them.
I work hard for nothing, but Bailie really needs the game aspect or she will not work at all. By putting the fun back into her training, adding more easy days, and including the guess work, she has gotten back to her top form. I know for a fact when Bailie passed her tracking test, she was dying to know what the reward was going to be that day when she found the article. The last training she did before her test was a simple straight 70 yard track with a bowl of food at the end. Now that leaves a good impression in a dog’s mind! I too am enjoying my training more than before. I love to work, but I also love to find out what Mom has for a reward each time I find what I am supposed to find, and I always wonder how many pieces I will get.
My canine words of wisdom to humans are: Don’t be cheap on the rewards! Make it a fun game! Reward your dog!
I’m co hosting the FitDog Friday Blog Hop with SlimDoggy, and To Dog With Love! Please join us on Fridays to share your fitness stories with others, find new ways to have fun, and new fitness ideas too! Tell your friends to stop by as well – fit dogs are healthier, happier dogs!