Ways to Reward

When it comes to rewarding your dog variety is key.

There are many ways to reward your dog for good behaviour, I recommend using as many of the below options as possible. The more ways you have to reward your dog the better.

 

You!

Your voice is a fantastic tool when training (and it's free) as you can tell your dog not only that they did something good, but how good they were. You will need to combine this with a food or toy reward when teaching new or important behaviours as your voice is not always motivating enough. 

For example if your dog sat when asked, but was a little slow you can say "good, thank you". However, if they did a super quick sit and are really focused on you you can say "WOW, THAT WAS SOOOO GOOOOD, WHO'S A GOOD DOGGY!". This may sound silly but dogs really value (or can learn to) enthusiastic praise. Be sure to use the tone of your voice to get your dog excited about doing something right and don't be afraid of being silly with them, they will love you for it.

Make good use of your voice and tone, after all it is free! 

 

Food

There are many different types, flavours and brand of food rewards on the market, it can be a minefield! Something to bare in mind is the ingredients of those treats, many contain colourings, sugars, unhealthy preservatives and fillers, such as grain. The ingredients are very important, not just because of your dogs tummy but because of their behaviour. If we are training a dog to be calm, but rewarding them with poor quality treats we are highly likely to be stuffing them with sugar or carbs which is bound to have the opposite effect.

The best kind of treats to use is your dog's daily food, however I recommend using higher value treats such as real meat for training outside the home and important behaviours, like recall.

Remember to deduct the amount of rewards your dog receives from their daily ration of food to avoid them putting on weight. This is not so important with young puppies as they burn off food easily, but is very important for dogs who are not growing anymore. 

 

Toys

Rewarding your dog with toys is a great way to strengthen your bond and create a versatile dog. The great advantage with training with a toy is that you can use it over and over again as apposed to a treat where it is gone in one second. Using toys as a reward has its difficulties, some dogs are not very toy motivated so may take a while to learn to enjoy playing with you. I recommend a purpose made tug toy with a handle, you can get many types and I love the pocket sized ones as you can neatly tuck it away in your pocket on a walk.

 

"Life" Rewards

This kind of reward takes a little bit of thinking from us. A life reward is anything your dog wants, for example; being greeted, having time off lead, water, saying hello to another dog, sniffing and being allowed out of their crate. These rewards are available in the environment and are usually very motivating to our dogs, we may often let our dogs have these things for free or unknowingly for unwanted behaviour. For example if we are out walking and Rover needs a drink, if we let Rover pull us to the water we will have reinforced him for pulling on lead. Alternatively, we could see that Rover wants to get to the water and get him to walk nicely to the water bowl, therefore reinforcing loose lead walking.

Another example is greeting our dogs when we come home. If we greet Rover when he is jumping and nipping we will be reinforcing that behaviour, but if we wait until Rover settles and them greet him we are reinforcing calm behaviour.

You can also use letting your dog off lead as a reward, simply ask your dog to sit and focus on you before you let them off, that way you are reinforcing that behaviour with the fantastic reward of freedom.

 

Throughout your training try to use a variety of these rewards based on what you want to reinforce, i.e. if you want to reward your dog for calm behaviour praise calmly and give a food reward or if you are rewarding a exciting behaviour use a jolly voice while being silly and playing with a tug toy.