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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rewards in Dog Training. Food Alternatives

Food is normally a great motivator and often useful when teaching new behaviors - because we need to perform multiple repetitions.

Once a dog has learned a behavior - like sit. We can use fewer treats. And we can use "life rewards."

Ask a dog for a trick before opening a door. Ask your dog for a trick before putting down the food bowl. Ask for a trick before opening the gate to the dog park, etc..

Or knowing what we know now about primary and secondary reinforcers, we can build value in secondary reinforcers and use those.  For example praise your dog and give treats often. Once the dog starts feeling good about praise, you can use it in  place of treats but not all the time. You will occasionally need to prime praise with treats.

And praise should be used for easy things that already have a long history of primary reinforcement .

When asking for things like difficult or complicated tricks, grooming procedures, vet visits, working around distractions like squirrels, etc.. we should still use primary reinforcers like food.

What type of rewards does your dog like? Tell us in the comments section below.
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