Why Do We Use Rewards In Dog Training?

kong-largeI tell all my clients that they would not go to work on Monday without getting a nice paycheck on Friday.  Well this is the same for your dog.  When you are training, your dog is working and it would like to receive a paycheck as well.

So the question is what kind of reward should we use.  What should be your dog’s paycheck?  Well the easiest answer here is the one he really likes.  A reward for your dog can be anything from a treat, a toy, or even lots of physical and verbal praise.

The next question is what type of reward do you want to use?  Personally I’m not a treat trainer, so treats are at the bottom of the list for me and my dogs.  My favorite way to reward my dogs is with large amounts of physical and verbal praise.  Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to have dogs that are very much willing to work for praise.

However, there are a few dogs out there that praising them just doesn’t seem to be enough for them they need something better.  With those dogs my second choice for a reward is a toy and my favorite toy is a Kong.  In fact you may find some dogs that will not work for praise or for food but would definitely give you their all for a nice Kong to play with.

Last but not least we have the treat.  It is definitely my least favorite reward. However there are dogs that using a treat is a must to accomplish the training.  In fact you’ll find many dog trainers that feel that training with treats is the only acceptable method.

My experience has been that the average dog owner who trains with treats ends up with the dog that isn’t actually trained unless there are treats present.  I find that about 95% of my clients when they first contact me tell me that their dog knows how to sit and down and sometimes even stay.  When I questioned them farther I find that this is all been done with treats.  So on my first lesson I always ask them to impress me and show me how their dog is able to sit and down.

It seems that maybe 10% of the dogs can do those exercises without a treat in the living room but I have yet to see one of them that could do it outside even with little are no distraction.  So basically what I’m saying is that the dog is not trained he simply has learned to follow the treat.   I call that bribing not training.

So in conclusion your dog needs a reward when you are training but choose the right one so your dog is being trained and not bribed.

Mark Mansfield

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