Following on from my ‘The Secrets to Reward Based Training’ post it is time to look at some undesirable, frustrating or annoying behaviours that you may have experienced from your dog that you can be unknowingly rewarding.
Dogs will learn the behaviour to display which will gain the best reward to them at that time. This is governed by the dog’s brain making a choice of the reward(s) on offer, and they will choose the highest value to them or they may choose avoidance of something they do not what to do, either way to the dog it is viewed as a reward.
This is discussed in my ‘8 Ways to Reward your Dog Correctly to Achieve Better Behaviours’ post but for now we shall concentrate on some everyday scenarios that you may have experienced, which could unknowingly be continuing through our own actions.
- When preparing your dog’s evening meal, does your dog get overly excited, bark, whine and spin around or jump up? The reward for doing this will the bowl being put down.
- Is your dog overly excited when visitors come around? Jumping up, whining, barking or grabbing clothes? The reward to your dog for doing this is the attention off the visitor and probably by you too by being told off.
- Does your dog beg for food? The reward will be the titbits your dog has gained previously. This may have happened infrequently, one in ten or twenty times but dogs are patient beings and they will wait for that one time to happen and usually with the person that gives in first.
- Is your dog very excitable whilst preparing for a walk? Is your dog like a wiggly worm to have the collar and lead put on, dashing around, jumping up and circling? The reward for this behaviour will be the high value walk reward soon to follow.
- Is your dog poor at coming back to your call? The reward is freedom.
- Does your dog take pride of place on the furniture and possibly show some reluctance or aggression to be moved? The reward is double fold here, a reward of comfort and a reward of owning the space more than you do.
- Does your dog get up to mischief, emptying bins, grabbing soft furnishings, children’s toys or clean washing and running off with them? The reward is your attention.
- Does your dog follow you around the house all the time, everywhere? The reward to your dog is not being left alone and maybe due to anxiousness. This can escalate any separation anxiety issues. On the other side of the coin your dog may be guarding you and owning your space, viewing you as territory. The reward here to the dog is a mental state of needing to be in charge.
When looking at how a dog thinks and then behaves to get the desired reward it becomes much clearer that our actions play a huge part in our dog’s behaviours.
With the above behaviours, it is your dog’s way of communicating with you and you respond with supplying the reward it wants. If you can relate to any of the above or similar it is time to switch it around and for you to communicate what you want your dog to do first and for them to respond appropriately before gaining any type of reward.
It would be great to hear from you on any behaviours from your dog that you now feel you may have been influencing to continue yourself. Others’ experiences are always invaluable to hear for myself and other readers.
To take action now in improving your dog’s behaviours please read my tips within my blog on 8 Ways to Reward your Dog to Achieve Better Behaviours.