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.

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