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.


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.

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.


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!

Teaching Phase

There are 3 phases of training a dog, teaching (first phase), proofing (2nd phase) and maintenance (3rd phase).

In the first phase we are teaching the dog to learn and the meaning of each command. Dogs don’t come to us speaking English or any language other then their own. They are visual learners and quickly learn what our body language means, but they need to be taught the words we use as commands.

Trainers use different techniques to teach a dog. Motivational training rewards the dog for good behavior encouraging the animal to want to learn and obey you. Praise, lures, rewards, and play are often used with this style. When teaching your dog, practice each command three times this will build consistency. Praise and reward your dog when they are in the correct position or giving you the behavior you want. Use the same commands to make things clear for your dog. Consistency, clear expectations and boundaries will make it easier for your dog to learn. Your dog should be happy and eager to please you, so make learning fun!

My Teachers

Throughout my life I have owed and been around many dogs. With each dog and dog interaction I have learned. One of the many reasons I love being a trainer is because there is always more to study. Prior to taking my Instructor Course I had developed knowledge and skills training animals. During my course I learned principals and foundation and continued to build my handling skills. I was very fortunate to train under someone who was highly skilled and knowledgeable and I continue to work with her so that I can offer my clients and their pets a high level of skill.

I have worked with other experienced trainers, attended seminars, read books, watch DVDs and other people who work or are interested in dogs. I appreciate that I have had various resources in which to gain knowledge and build my skills.

Some of my best teachers have been the dogs I have owed and worked with. Living with multiple dogs has taught me about the pack mentality, how they respond to each other and how they learn. I have seen dogs, correct, dominate, play, distract, and interact with each other on a daily basis. Dogs have been my best teachers, and once I learned the principles and foundation I was able to understand what I was seeing. Dogs are visual learners and communicate using their bodies. The way they hold their tail, head, ears all have meaning. Reading a dog can be challenging as humans don’t know their language it is something we learn. Some dogs can be very expressive just as some give very minimal changes. The flicker of an ear or tail movement, the absence of movement or expression all have meaning. There are dogs that will give warning prior to aggression and some that don’t. Each dog is different, although there are similarities in signals that they give. Learning from the dogs I live and work with brings me great joy as I am often amused by their antics and how they interact. I love the challenges and rewards of working with dogs they are remarkable creatures!

My Vet is Leaving

I was very lucky when I found a wonderful caring vet that I could trust completely when Jasper was around 1 years old. I have always felt that my vet worked in the best interest of my animals and did not overcharge me for her services. Finding a vet that you can trust is very important as our animals cannot communicate their symptoms.

During this difficult time with Jasper she has proven once again how devoted she is, going so far as to give me her home phone number so we could keep in contact in case Jasper need immediate attention.

This is her last week at the clinic I currently use, as she is returning to her home in another province. She has promised that we can stay in touch and will do her best to continue to oversee Jasper’s health issues through email. She has taken a year leave from the clinic although may make this move permanent. I am very saddened that she is leaving and questioning now what to do with my animals. I am not comfortable with any of the other current vets at this clinic except for one that is presently on maternity leave. I require a knowledgeable vet who is opened minded to holistic practices, understands raw diet feeding, and the vaccination protocol I want to use.

I am currently looking into vets that can offer me the care I am used to in case my vet does not return. I will continue to use the clinic I currently attend, but lately they have made a lot of changes which I am not in favour of, but would accept if my vet returns.

Jasper – Therapy Dog

Jasper has been doing pet visits for over 6 years at a retirement home close to where we live. We have made many friends over the years who have often shared their stories of their own beloved pets. Jasper’s calm friendly demeanor has brought, joy, comfort and amusement to many of the residents. Jasper loves going on these visits and feels very comfortable with the friends he has made. One of Jasper’s major accomplishments is one lady who is terrified of dogs, especially German Sheperd’s as she was bitten as a child. Although it has only happened twice she actually allowed herself to pat Jasper, a remarkable accomplishment when you consider how fearful she is. There are times the same woman cannot even come into the lobby when we visit as she is so fearful. Jasper is so calm and gentle I have seen quite a few people petrified of dogs eventually come around with Jasper.

Today will be our 2nd last visit where I will have to inform the residents of Jasper’s health issues and that he won’t be able to continue visiting them. I know it won’t be easy, they love Jasper and look forward to seeing him every week. It breaks my heart because I know Jasper loves going there too and he will be missed. Today will begin a sad farewell.

I love you my sweet boy, my heart…….