How to reward my dog?

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We have already seen how to punish your dog and especially how to punish, deflect problematic behavior and then reward. We are therefore going to take a closer look at how to reward your dog.

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What is a reward?

First of all, it is important to understand what a reward is and why it is used in dog training.

Rewarding your dog allows you to create a positive association following an action . The dog learns mainly by operant conditioning: he will therefore reiterate the behaviors which allowed him to obtain a reward and, conversely, avoid the behaviors which preceded a sanction.

Then the reward will help create motivation in the dog , which will push him to listen and respond positively to an indication.

Through the reward, the dog is then expressed the validation of his good behavior , which will subsequently reinforce this behavior if the validation is still expressed.

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How do you find the right reward?

for the dog to understand the positive association that you want to put in place, it is still necessary that he really considers the chosen reward as a positive association.

Indeed, all dogs will not necessarily be motivated by the same rewards . We will see shortly after which rewards you can test with your dog to find out which of them suits him best.

But to be sure of choosing the right reward, you just need to observe your dog well, in particular through his attitudes and his calming and / or warning signals.

For example, if your dog licks his nose, prefers to run away, turn his back to you or even yawn: this does not put him in a comfortable situation.

This is often the case, for example, when you stroke your dog to reward him. We think, wrongly, that all dogs enjoy petting, and many of them just “tolerate” it. We will speak later, more precisely of the petting.

On the other hand, if your dog quickly reiterates the behavior that you have rewarded, validated and therefore reinforced : there you can be sure that the chosen reward is the right one. Clearly, when training a dog, you have to do what works!

In fact, when teaching your dog something, you should always make sure that you have a technique, attitude and reward system that is right for your dog. If you see that your dog is not reiterating the new indications that you think you have taught him, it is because one of these elements is not sufficiently adapted to his learning.

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An element is often forgotten in the education process

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The different rewards

  • The verbal reward:

Very often used, obviously, because it is one of the first reflexes that one will have to interact with his dog. However, it is very important to distinguish each intonation of voice when you want to communicate your contentment or dissatisfaction to your dog.

Indeed, verbal rewards must be distinct from any verbal sanctions and annoyances. A simple “that’s good” in a neutral and soft tone will of course not have the same effect as a “that’s goooooood” in a high and cheerful voice.

If the “that’s good” is in the same tone as the “no” for example, it is certain that the dog will not understand that he is being rewarded at this moment and he will not therefore necessarily repeat the behavior that you thought. have validated.

Remember that our canine friends do not speak our language! However, they can easily distinguish our different intonations depending on the situation.

So, if you want to reward your dog with your voice, don’t be afraid of being ridiculed and exaggerate and emphasize your intonations .

However, be aware that the “excessive” verbal reward may cause the dog to lose focus during an exercise and / or to consider that it is the end of it. It is therefore advisable to moderate the tone of voice depending on the difficulty and the novelty of the exercise.

Example: You taught your dog to sit and he now does so systematically. If, to learn a new indication, such as “lying down” for example, you need to go through the “sitting” position, this position can be rewarded verbally but without exaggeration. On the other hand, the “lying” will be warmly rewarded.

  • The game reward:

Unlike the verbal reward, the “game” reward is often more complicated to set up because it will undoubtedly excite the dog and distract him.

In contrast, the game can be used to reward an entire education session. This will allow your dog to relax and let off steam and externalize the energy that he will have channeled during the training session.

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Finally, be vigilant about the game you offer your dog, it must be both fun and educational, it is not about destroying all the work done previously.

3 examples of fun and educational games that you can offer at the end of an education session:

  • > The ON / OFF game using a bead or a knotted rope. We will come and excite the dog and stop him on request.
  • > The tracking game that stimulates the dog’s sense of smell. We will come and hide treats all over the place and then encourage our dog to find them, for example.
  • > The controlled throwing game which allows the dog to learn to wait for his owner’s indication before pursuing his goal.
  • The petting reward :

As mentioned previously, this reward is not necessarily the most appreciated by our canine friends, who will not necessarily like this intrusion into their bubble. So be sure that your dog appreciates this contact before offering him a pet as a reward.

To put all the chances on your side so that your dog enjoys this moment, three steps to follow:

  • > Ask the dog for permission (offering the palm of your hand first)
  • > Pet the dog on the side or under the neck
  • > When the dog is next to you and appreciates the petting, favor an all-encompassing petting (if the dog is on your right, pet him on the right side, and vice versa)

Then, if you observe that your dog really does not appreciate this contact, do not insist and offer him another reward, another motivation that will push him to repeat the desired behavior.

  • The reward of obtaining:

Dogs are opportunistic animals who will go for anything that gives them something positive and enjoyable.

For a dog, just getting what he wants is a reward. In fact, we will use this means to motivate the dog. Basically: do you want this? So do this to get it.

Here is a more telling example: If your dog wishes to go out in the garden and it scratches at the door to let you know, this attitude can be practical but nevertheless lead to an extreme behavior which can become embarrassing (especially for the condition of the door).

We will therefore make the dog understand that he will only be able to accept what he wants (namely here: going out) if he is calm (in a sitting position for example) . As soon as the dog sits down: we let him go outside and therefore get what he initially wanted.

The same goes for petting, for example: a dog who insists on a pet must understand that it is by stopping his contact that he will be able to access what he wishes to obtain.

Thus: my dog ​​asks me for a pet, I ignore him, I wait for him to move on, then I call him to pet him. We then teach the dog that when he gives up, he obtains satisfaction.

  • The treat reward:

We end this part with one of the most appreciated and used rewards, and at the same time the most criticized.

Some will love to use the treat because it allows you to do a lot of things with your dog (when he is greedy of course) , while others will say that it is “too easy” and that it only increases the costs. risks of dog obesity.

To these “criticisms” (which may be admissible, I hear it) , I nevertheless give two counter arguments:

  • > That education is “too easy” is not a problem in my opinion, quite the contrary! You just have to know how to gradually detach yourself from the treat so that the behavior is repeated without this motivation.
  • > Then, if the treats are given in a reasonable way, that the quality of the latter is correct and that the dog’s daily ration is adapted according to the education lessons given during the day: I then see no risk of obesity.
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The right timing of the reward

The reward should always follow a desired behavior and timing is of course very important so as not to mark unwanted behavior.

This is often the case when, for example, we want to teach a dog to sit but only reward it when it has stood up. And yes because our dogs can be very fast. It is therefore necessary to know how to reward precisely at the right time.

For the reward to be precise, it is often recommended to use a marker such as a “yess” or the “click” of the clicker for example.

The “yesss” or the “click” will therefore be markers that will reinforce the behavior instantly. The reward can then follow this marker (whether it is a pet, a treat or other).

Gradually stop the rewards?

We often wonder, especially when rewarding with the treat, how and when to make the transition from “with treat” to “without treat”.

As for the treat reward, the transition will have to be done very gradually and only when the behavior is acquired systematically . Thus, when a “sitting” is acquired for example, one will come to reward with the delicacy once in two, then on three, then on five, and so on.

But beware, every good behavior must be rewarded , in all cases, whether acquired or not. We will then use a more “light” reward such as a pet or a simple positive vocal indication for the acquired indications.

Finally, for the reward to be obtained, it must always exist, and this throughout the life of the dog to allow a good cohabitation and a good relationship with his master. However, since the dog learns by repetition, he will quickly understand how to achieve what he desires if his master has a consistent attitude.

The attitude of the master

Finally, a little reminder on the need for consistency in the attitude of the teacher. Indeed, if a behavior is rewarded, it should not subsequently be penalized.

Hence the importance of knowing, from the start, what to allow your dog and what to prohibit. Indeed, it will always be easier to teach a dog rather than “unlearn” him.

So be sure of yourself and be consistent in your interactions with your pet.

Final words and important recommendations

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