Let’s talk about rewards (treats, reinforcers, bribes????).
One of the things I talk about a lot during class and 1-2-1’s is the ‘value’ of rewards. It’s not the value to us that matters so much, it’s what our dogs find reinforcing. For some (well, the majority) it’s food, for others its toys and for some (my boy included), it’s abit of affection.
Working out what your dog finds rewarding can really help your training accelerate. But how do we know what to offer ? Ask them ! – place a few different treats or toys on the floor and see which they gravitate towards. I work with dogs who would do anything for a piece of carrot and others for who only the very best liver cake will rouse them enough for a sit.
The rewards we use also varies with the distractions around us. At home, in the kitchen, you may find that your dog will quite happily train for some of their daily food allowance, yet take that same dog to ‘distraction alley’ where there are all sorts of competing smells and sights, and you may find that only the best steak will do to keep their attention on you.
It’s always worth having a variety of treats in your treat bag, mix things up abit so they never know what’s coming next, but keep those really high value one’s for the fastest recall, or keeping focus on your while a squirrel tap dances in front of them.
I like making my own treats, liver cake is a favourite in this house. But, I do also ‘cheat’ and buy rewards (especially when working with clients dogs). If you are looking for healthy, natural treats, one of my favourite sites is https://www.jrpetproducts.com/?v=79cba1185463.
It’s home of the ‘magic sausage’ (search for pate), and the ever popular dried sprats – yes they stink, but they work!! It’s free delivery if you spend over £25, once you start mooching it’s easily done as they stock some amazing long lasting chews as well.
I’m always on the lookout for new ideas so let us know what your dog’s favourite reward is.