Dogs work on a reward based system as do we! We would not go to work without pay, unless we were volunteering of course but that gives us a different kind of emotional reward.
Food and praise are the obvious two and usually high on the list for many dogs, but rewards are a lot more varied and each individual dog will rate its own rewards differently. Breed type can be an influence, Labrador = food, Collie = chasing a ball , Husky = a good sniffy walk. You are probably already aware of your own dog’s highest reward. With my dog, it is definitely food!
Imagine an old-fashioned pair of balancing scales in a dog’s brain, within a split second a dog can determine reward V action and make a choice of whether the reward outweighs the action or vice versa. For example:
- Sit command V Treat on an empty stomach in the park ( chooses to sit) Food is high value at that time.
- Sit command V Treat on a full stomach in the park (chooses not to sit but to run and play) the play being far more rewarding at that time.
Here is a list of what dogs perceive as rewards, it could be an external physical reward or an internal ‘feel good’ ‘feel safe’ or ‘feel empowered’ reward. I am sure some are obvious but there may be a few surprises.
- Physical praise
- Verbal praise
- A walk
- Playing interactive games
- Being shouted at
- Being close to you all the time (Have you ever had your dog watching you on the toilet? it’s a yes from me!)
- Jumping up
- Allowed on the furniture
- Eating nasty things
Previously outdated punishment based training techniques showed results in their day, but were cruel and damaging to the dogs’ confidence and damaged their trust in people. With advanced research our modern-day training techniques were formed. The timing and providing of rewards is a much more effective and kinder way to teach our dogs.
We do not want robotic dogs ruled with an iron fist, this only makes the dog fearful. The idea is to teach and guide your puppy or adult dog to then have the confidence to know the correct behaviour choice to make itself.
Dogs are totally dependent on us, they live within our homes and are much loved family members. Everything they have and receive is from us so the giving of any rewards needs to be on our terms at the correct time.
When your dog is calm, has followed a command or learnt to make the choice itself to carry out the desired behaviour then they can receive the reward. The withholding of the reward until the asked behaviour happens is the lesson that they learn from. This is the backbone of reward based training.
I am carrying out a survey on what is the highest reward for people’s dogs. Please comment stating your breed or cross breed and in your mind your dog’s highest reward value. Thank you
Mandy at Yes! Good Dog
Please see my associated posts on rewarding your dog: 8 Ways You could be Unknowingly Rewarding Undesirable Behaviours from your Dog and 8 Ways to Reward your Dog to Achieve Better Behaviour Results.