We covered how to give your dog a command in a previous post, today we will talk about how to reward your dog when he obeys your command.
I do not believe in treats and toys as reward for good behavior. I do acknowledge that some dogs have been trained very well with treats alone but I want my dog focused on me, not an object. You that have seen the crazy look a dog gets when they get their Kong or tug know what I am saying when I talk about object focus. I had the opportunity to interact with a 4 month old maligator (Belgian Malinois for those that haven’t heard that term yet) that was in training for the sport French Ring. He was gorgeous pup but the intensity that they have for their reward, in his case a bite sleeve, was crazy. It was clear he would do anything to get his sleeve. Lol I guess it was his precious for the Lord of the Rings fans out there. I want the dog to have that kind of loyalty for me, not an object.
A toy or treat from you may not be near as enticing as the distraction of a cat or squirrel scurrying across the street. Consequently, you may find yourself chasing after your bolting canine.
So what do I use to reward a dog for obeying a command? Praise. Praise from his handler. Mike McConnery says that dog is the only animal that voluntarily left his pack to form a bound with humans in his books. A dog did not form a bond with a treat or a Kong. Dog and man formed a mutual bond to care for one another. Shouldn’t we capitalize on that bound? Praise is enough.
Like we talked about in a previous post, the intensity of voice must match the situation. Same thing with praise. Your praise should match the command that was given. A quiet “leave it” while sitting outside at a restaurant deserves a quiet, “good leave it.” Likewise, an intense out command while your dog is deployed on target requires an intense “Good Out!” once they release. A common mistake handlers make is to cheapen the praise by “Oh good boy, good boy, you did such a good job,” all the while rubbing them all over and taking them out of situation or the Work as Mike would say.
Our Golden Retriever Copper absolutely loves praise from us. He lights up after he gets a “Good Sit Cop” and a quick rub on the head. Lol that ol tongue comes out and I swear he smiles as he wags his tail. Scout, our Dutch Shepherd, also appreciates some well timed praised, she just doesn’t show it as much as Cop does.
Another added benefit of using praise is you are never without your tools. Now you don’t have to pack a Kong or a tug, or grab a handful of treats to stick in your pocket when you go out.
One last thought, think of the most spun up dog obsessing over a toy. Now imagine this dog is a Police K9 deployed on a suspect. What do you think that dog would much rather get at the end of that sprint? A true all out fight with a suspect that has nothing to lose, or a his favorite thing in the whole wide world, his Precious.