What are the best rewards for dogs

What are the best rewards:

That all depends on your dog, for most its food, toys or affection/praise.

When you choose a reward make sure it a something your dog likes and is willing to work for. If a dog is not food motivated a regular biscuit or kibble will not suffice, trying using real food, or a toy, or affection/praise.

Using High Level Rewards:

Using high level rewards to target certain commands, for example “come”. I always use a treat that is of high value to my dog, so they are excited and always willing to come for the treat. If your dog is having difficulty with a command, the use of high level rewards can help the dog to learn quicker and sometimes a more solid command.

Rewards and Rate of Reinforcement:

An environment will often provide its own training rewards for dogs, like interesting smells, other animals, or the opportunity to greet a person. The rewards you offer are always in competition with “rewards” out in the real world. We need to build our dogs ability to work around distractions, and the increase the rate of reinforcement (how often you give rewards) to make you and the training session more exciting than the environment.

A common example is teaching your dog to “heel.” Sights, sounds, smells, and even garbage on the sidewalk can all reinforce walking at the end of the leash instead of at your side. You need to be sure you’re rewarding your dog often and with a high level reward to compete with these distractions.

Timing the Distribution of Rewards

How quickly your dog gets their reward can also have an impact on training. Rewards must come within 3 seconds of the action of the dog. If you take too long to deliver the treat, your dog can become confused about what exactly they are being rewarded for.

  1. A typical mistake during house training is to offer the dog a treat when they come back in the house after doing their business, or calling a dog to you, then asking it to “sit”. This is confusing, how does the dog know the treat is for going to the bathroom outside, rather than coming in the back door, or that it is for coming or for sitting?

Make sure you deliver your rewards as quickly as possible after your dog has performed the behavior you want to reinforce. Be very clear ask the dog to do one thing at a time. As the dog learns you can then add more, but at first keep it simple. You need to be sure to reinforce the behavior that you want and not some other behavior.

Rewards and Reinforcing the wrong Behavior

It’s very easy to accidentally reward your dog at the wrong time and therefore reinforce the wrong behavior. For example:

  1. Sweetly telling your dog “it’s okay” and/or petting him while he’s afraid
  2. Pulling your dog close to you, petting him or telling him in a comforting tone, “it’s okay”, while he’s growling at strangers
  3. Petting or sometimes even pushing away a dog who jumps up on you

In all of these cases, although not trying to reward the bad behavior, but that’s what’s happening! Understand, that your praise, affection, food and toys will be perceived as rewards by your dog, and therefore it’s important to be aware of when you give these rewards. Be careful how you talk to your dog, especially when its afraid, often we mean to try to soothe the dog, or make it feel comforted, when we are really telling the dog it is okay to behave in a manner we don’t want. If a dog is continually behaving in a manner you don’t like, look at it from the dogs viewpoint and see if you are rewarding the behavior. Sometimes the reward may not come from you, but the dog perceives the reward or that they have controlled a situation. For example:

  1. The mailman or delivery man comes to your house and leaves a package outside, while this is happening your dog is barking, and then the delivery person leaves. The dog has now learned if it barks it can keep strangers away, as the dog doesn’t know that the delivery person was going to leave with or without them barking.

Always look at the situation for how your dog might perceive it!

Rewards are the best way of letting your dog know they are doing what you are asking, they will always repeat the behaviors they are rewarded for. Understand what is perceived as a reward by your dog, use rewards they like and watch the timing of the reward.

Jasper

I have not blogged for a while as I have not been able to write about the loss of my best friend, loyal companion and my heart. Over the next few blogs I will be telling his story, maybe it will help others and bring me some peace.

Jasper was a sweet boy with an old soul. His eyes said it all, he touched many hearts. His calm manner and patience I have not seen in many dogs. Jasper was very intuitive, he knew when to give people or animals their space, he didn’t push. Jasper would wait till they overcame their own fears and accepted him. He socialize many puppies, aggressive dogs, and he was a quiet leader who had respect from other members in his pack. Jasper did not have to fight or show aggression his quiet unassuming demeanor said it all. I enjoyed training with Jasper so much that I became a dog trainer, and Jasper was my only partner. He built my business with his well mannered behavior. Our relationship reflected our respect, love and devotion which my clients wanted to have with their own dogs.

Jasper and I enjoyed our time working together, and we were an excellent team who read each other well. As he got older I recognized that while Jasper enjoyed being with me, his health was taking a toll, so I retired him earlier this year. Over the last year Jasper bonded strongly with my husband, who has not been well. I stepped back because I knew Jasper could help heal and I wanted Jasper to enjoy being the center of our lives and with my business, our other two dogs, so my time was limited. Jasper and I continued to have a special relationship but he also was spoiled by my husband and the two of them enjoyed their time together. Jasper was very loved and appreciated because he was so special.

Jasper was an amazing therapy dog. I have seen people petrified of dogs who in time were able to pet Jasper. Many of the people in the retirement home over the years loved Jasper’s visits, including the staff. Jasper was so comfortable with his visits it was like his second home. He loved getting his back scratched, laying at their feet and just saying “hi” to everyone that he saw. He was always excited to go on his pet visits and I know he is sadly missed.

I know my heart will always be empty where once Jasper filled it with his love and friendship. I recognize the special gift Jasper was in my life, what he gave and I was blessed to have shared this bond with such a sweet loyal friend.

Dogs and the Heat

This is a good time to remind people about their canine friends and the heat. Taking proper precautions will keep your pet cool and safe from heat stroke. Dogs need adequate fresh cold water, I like to add ice cubes or crushed ice. If you are traveling with your pet always have cool water assessable using a portable container. For the backyard, have cool drinking water, and maybe a small pool or sprinkler. A dog cannot not sit out in the hot sun all day they must have shaded areas where they can cool down. Tents, gazebos, trees offer shade for your furry friends. I do not let my dogs spend much time out in the hot humid heat, I prefer that they are in an air conditioned areas where they can lie on a cool floor, this is best for all dogs. If it’s too hot outside for humans than its too hot for your pets.

NEVER EVER leave your dog in a car when it is hot even with the windows open. It amazes me how these warnings go out every year and yet people still leave their dogs in cars with windows up and no water, it only takes seconds for animals to be in distress and minutes before its too late to save them. Be responsible and be a good owner, never leave your dog in a car when it is hot outside.

Older animals, sick, short nosed and overweight animals need to be watched more closely as they are more sensitive when exposed to the heat. Certain breeds, like pugs, bulldogs, boxers etc. are more susceptible to being affected by the heat as they have poor panting mechanisms.

When you walk your dog it is best to do in the morning or evening when the pavement is cool on their paws. Don’t over exert them, go too far or run them in the heat. Bring water with you to give your animal even on short walks.

Taking just a few precautions will keep your canine friend cool and safe during the hot days of summer!

Stepping Stones

Often people will call me with a specific problem they are having with their dog, maybe it pulls on leash or doesn’t come when called. On my first visit I assess the dog and quickly decide my plan of action. I may start off teaching the dog a command such as “look” or working on problems I see in the relationship. If the foundation isn’t right I cannot always fix the problem until I fix the foundation.

It can be difficult for a client to understand, they may ask what does teaching a dog to “look” have to do with walking? Of course there are many reasons I may teach something else before working on the problem it all depends on the dog and the relationship with its owner.

While I do use correction and consequences in my training, a dog needs motivation, positive reinforcement, boundaries, respect and a calm handler. Dogs will see stress and frustration as a weakness sometimes causing behavior issues. There is a difference in using correction/consequences and using force. Before fixing any problem often other issues need to be addressed and fixed. As a trainer I need to be able to view a situation and then implement the proper plan of action to fix the problem. No two dogs are the same, and I always work in the best interest of the dog.

Once foundation pieces are fixed it can sometimes be quite easy to fix other problems as the dog is clear about the expectations. For some dogs it is just motivating them to learn and follow their handler. Consistency, clear expectations, motivation and leadership are all important pieces of the foundation of training your dog!

The Spoiled Dog

A spoiled dog is not a happy well adjusted, well mannered pet. Often a spoiled dog can be unruly, stressed, dominate and impossible to live with. We all love our pets and often will spoil them, but we first must remember that for a dog pack order and rank is what they live by. A dog needs respect and must respect the pack leader, this is more important than love in a dogs eyes. Continual spoiling of our dogs is not showing them love rather we are depriving them of their basic needs.

Dogs are social animals that live in packs, rank is necessary for pack survival. Imagine a company where everyone is the president each one telling the other what to do, nothing would get done. It is the same with a pack of dogs, one leader is required to lead the pack and make all the decisions. The pack needs a leader who decides when to hunt, play, find shelter etc.

Often spoiled dogs are allowed to do anything they want without boundaries and rules, chaos will surely follow. Spoiled dogs are the most difficult to train, often dominate and stressed as they are not equipped to be a leader but are predisposed to take on the role when no other leader is established. It can lead to many unwanted behaviors, aggression, anxiety, and dominance. I have seen people live with animals they are afraid of, dogs that won’t hesitate to use aggression to control their human and yet these people will still insist their dog is very loving most of the time. A dog that has been allowed to say “no” without consequence and ignore or control its owner is often a dangerous dog.

Being the leader of a dog does not mean you can’t love your dog, it just means your dog will follow and listen to you. Establishing leadership is not difficult, it means making the dog earn its privileges the same as humans work to earn money to buy things. Dogs earn privileges by making them sit before feeding, or stay before going outside, or doing a down before giving a treat. It is just simple commands, not done with anger but rather a calm relaxed tone. Leaders are not cruel they keep the pack safe, feed, find shelter and make all the decisions. When we are children our parents keep us safe, feed and provide us shelter this helps them to feel safe and loved. It is the same for our dogs they feel safe and cared for when we have consistent boundaries and rules. When you spoil your dog you are not giving your dog what it needs rather you are creating stress for the dog. Dogs thrive on consistency and knowing your expectations.

I have seen many times an unruly disobedient dog be put in the hands of a trainer or behaviorist and within a short period of time be relaxed, less stressed and obedient. As a trainer dealing with a spoiled dog can be both dangerous and difficult. Love your dogs by giving them what they need and you will be rewarded with a happy, well adjusted and obedient pet!

Root Cause

As a trainer we always have to look at what is the root cause for problems that clients have with their pets. An example is when a dog is asked to sit and doesn’t sit. The first question is:

– does the dog know how to perform this action ?

If there is any doubt the dog must first be taught the mean of the command “sit”.

The next step is to look at the relationship between the dog and the owner, if the relationship is not right or the owner is not clearly communicating to the animal this will need to be addressed and corrected.

Third is looking at the temperament, examples might be if the dog has anxiety issues or dominance issues these would need to be addressed by a behaviorist or experienced trainer depending on the temperament issues.

I also consider could it be a medical issue. I have seen dogs that will not perform certain commands as it causes them pain or discomfort. For instance a dog with hip issues, may feel discomfort when sitting therefore avoid performing the command.

Often I get calls and people will explain in detail the issues they are having with their animal but unless I see the dog and owner I cannot offer sound advice to fix the problem. Only by viewing the dog can I analyze the situation and develop a viable solution.

Interesting Dog Club – My Weekend

I found dog club very enlightening and interesting this weekend. We had a few behavior dogs and I was able to watch and see how their behavior transformed when handled correctly. The lady (Penny) who I trained under has such expertise and fine handling skills she is a joy to watch when working with dogs. One particular case at dog club was a young six month shepherd pup that is being trained for Schutzhund. This young pup is very stubborn and causing some questionable behaviors for its owner/handler. The dog knows the command to sit, but will only do it when its feels like it. So Penny started asking it to sit the dog refused, it was corrected (you could see the dog didn’t mind the correction) and continued to disobey. After changing equipment the dog still refused most the time but was rewarded each time it obeyed. The dog was worked and put away a few times continuing to refuse to sit, but now was also thinking of biting. She explained the only reason the dog did not bite was its age. She then went into temperament testing of the dog, this was so interesting to watch as she transformed this stubborn dog. Finally the dog obeyed, was rewarded and you could see a real difference in the dog. Now the dog was offering social behavior, being respectful, and relaxed even after an hour of on and off again intense work just to get this dog to obey. This is the kind of challenge I love but seeing someone who really knows how to handle it with such expertise is amazing. I love seeing how the dog transformed and seeing someone with amazing handling skills deal with the problem.

I also was very pleased with Rogan this weekend when Tracking, she did very well for saying it is only the 3rd time I have tracked her this year. At dog club she seemed a bit off and I was not able to get much drive out of her. I have also decided to work more on teaching and developing her skills rather than just building the drive. I will continue to do the drive work, but there are still commands she needs to learn in order for her to try for her BH which is our goal along with her Urban Tracking Dog title. I believe the drive work is important but should not be my main focus. I did work her on the field with her platz and recall and that she did excellent and I was very pleased. I love when I call a dog, and it comes speeding into me without any hesitation and great focus!

Success

Currently I am working with Rogan to get her to respond to my command “platz” (down) quicker. Often she would hesitate but after just a week she is responding without any hesitation. I have also been working with both Rogan and Gracie developing their working in drive. I am very happy with the responses I am getting. For the first time Gracie dealt with her anxieties and gave me drive outside in a new environment. Other dogs and people were around and yet she was able to focus and go into drive. It was fun for both of us. When you get success in training and know that your dog “gets it” you and the dog are rewarded!

Ironically a client called me to tell me about how their dogs seem to understand how to properly walk after our last lesson. Prior to working with this client they could not walk their dogs especially together, as it had become very unpleasant experience. They still have work to do, but they can actually take their dogs out for walks and enjoy it. As a trainer I am very excited for them and pleased that I was able to help them overcome the issues and find enjoyment spending quality time with their dogs.

In working my own dogs, I was recently surprised at how Rogan would respond to me, with just eye movement. When I started working on better response for her downs and she was slow, but just a movement of my eyes would get her to respond quicker. I find it amazing how dogs are able to read even the slightest body language.

Each dog I work with whether my own or a clients, having success is always the goal. Developing the clients understanding and their own handling skills brings out better responses from their dogs and helps them to reach or exceed their training goals.

Success in communication and training brings such joy to the dog and the owner, building a stronger bond. Meeting our goals and often exceeding our expectations is the best reward!

Humanizing our dogs?

Dogs are wonderful, they are loyal companions that bring us great comfort. My own dogs make me laugh and enrich my life in many ways. As humans we tend to label what we know and understand by attaching human emotions to our dogs. I hear it all the time, an owner will say to me “my dog is jealous” because that’s how the human would feel, not the dog. What humans call jealousy is one of two things in dogs, either competition or straightening out the pack order. The dominate dog will push the more submissive dog out of the way to get attention and this is pack order not jealousy. Dogs also do not feel hate, spite or guilt, this is placing human emotions to explain their behavior. Dogs simply do not have complex thinking or feel emotion in this way. Dogs will display unwanted behaviors because they are bored, lacking in exercise, or just having fun. While making a mess of the garbage may not seem like fun to a human it can be a great source of fun and food for a dog. It’s all about resources dogs constantly look for opportunities to take/guard and/or possess resources. Dogs don’t hate either. A dog will react to other dogs if the sense an imbalance, over dominance, or they may sense unstable emotions from the human around the other dog. Dogs will also react because they have temperament issues such as fear or anxiety.

Dogs have an innate ability to read body language that as humans we don’t. Trainers and behaviorists spend countless hours learning and developing their own skills to read body language so they can communicate with dogs and understand the meaning of the of the body language displayed by the animal.

Dogs do posses emotion but they are not as complex as humans. Dogs sense our emotions, but do not read the negative energy in the true meaning of emotion. A dog will read negative energy (emotions) as a weakness and react accordingly. Dogs rely on their instincts, they will be happy when their instincts are fulfilled and sad when their needs (instincts) are not being met, or if they are ill. Dog’s respond to the moment they don’t sit and worry about the past nor have complex thinking for the future. A dog will not sit at home when the owner is away planning revenge that the owner has left them their alone, but a dog will take the opportunity to get into mischief and have some fun. Dogs are opportunists and just reacting in the moment.

Often I hear people say I love my dogs more than humans, and this is because our dogs don’t think or feel as humans do. Dogs don’t hold grudges or get caught up in emotions like we do and it is for that reason they are so lovable. As humans we should love and honour our dogs because they are dogs and enjoy them for all they bring into our lives!

Should I get one pup or two?

I love living with multiple dogs, I find it interesting and a learning experience, BUT, I will never recommend getting two pups especially from the same litter to my clients. I strongly believe you need to have the right dogs living together with the right owner. As a trainer I have seen how strongly dogs bond together making it difficult or impossible to build a strong bond with the handler or owner. A dog that is indifferent or is not bonded to its owner will be difficult to train and live with.

Dogs are pack animals, and in the pack there is rank order. Dogs will always bond strongly with each other, after all they speak the same language and are of the same species. Every dog that comes into your life needs time to build a relationship with you, and bond with you. Every addition to the pack will increase the pack instinct, and make no mistake these dogs will work, play and fight as a pack. Owning a pack of dogs is a responsibility that should never be taken lightly. Often owners don’t realize how dangerous a pack can be regardless of how sweet they may seem. Owning two or more dogs is considered a pack!

Living with multiple dogs in harmony can be accomplished when done right, usually by experienced owners or trainers. I understand the joy in owning more than one dog but time needs to be given to each dog to train, bond, build a strong relationship and establish leadership. Two puppies from the same litter creates an even more difficult situation as these pups are already bonded prior to entering your family, and trying to break that bond can be challenging if not impossible for most owners.

I have seen where raising two pup’s together results in violence and where it becomes necessary to re-home one of the dogs. Rarely people have the time to separate and spend time with each pup individually. It is a challenge and time consuming and does not fit with most people’s hectic lifestyles. This is not to say that I advocate against owning more than one dog, but that I believe raising two puppies together should only be done by experienced dog trainers or owners. Adding an existing dog to your family should also be well thought out and time given to each dog separately. When done properly owning multiple dogs is very rewarding!