Tips on rewarding your dog

The following dog training tips will help you understand when and how to reward your dog to make obedience exercises as effective as possible.

Anchor the desired response

Your dog will learn quicker if you reward him at the precise moment he performs the desired action. When teaching the sit command, for instance, you should give a reward the moment your dog’s bottom touches the ground. You want him to associate the physical sensation with the reward, which anchors the desired response. If you reward your dog too early or too late, he’ll have a hard time connecting the reward with the necessary sensation, i.e. his rear touching the ground. Think about the response you want from a command and what sensation can be used to anchor that response to the reward. Then reward immediately upon the correct response.

If you’ve decided to clicker train your dog, then you can anchor the desired response using your clicker. See how clicker training works for more information.

Go easy on the dog treats

If you give your dog treats every time he responds correctly, they lose their novelty. Since the reward is inevitable, your dog will only obey when he wants a treat. You become a snack machine rather than a dog trainer. Excess treats can also affect your dog’s health and make him a finicky eater.

The following dog training tips will help you keep rewards in check and improve your dog’s performance:

Vary the reward timing

Once your dog has grasped the idea of a command, begin to reward him at different intervals. For example, during a sit-stay exercise reward him after one minute of staying, then four minutes, then two minutes. The idea is to keep him guessing. Your dog will always do his best during training because he’s not sure what it’ll take to get the reward. Just don’t make him wait too long.

Match the level of reward to the performance

If your dog is just going through his paces, he should get a basic reward. When he moves enthusiastically and really nails a command, he should receive a huge reward. Your dog will learn to strive for his best performance since that’s what brings the best rewards. Keep in mind, what your dog finds rewarding today may not be as enticing tomorrow. You’ll need to pay attention to what works best and when.

Start with treats, but move toward behavioral rewards

Dog training tips often advocate using food as a reward since it’s the easiest way to teach a command. But tasty treats can lose their luster over time. They’re also useless if your dog is distracted by the desire to do something else, like roll in the grass or jump in your lap. Once your dog understands a command, you can ensure a reliable response by turning the distractions themselves into a behavioral reward. Have your dog sit before he rolls in the grass or gives you a hug. Have him retrieve his leash before he goes for a walk. Keep a list of the activities your dog loves and look for ways to turn those distractions into rewards. This will teach your dog to listen even if his mind is on something else, and he’ll begin to associate real-life value with obeying your commands.

These dog training tips should get you well on your way to training a dog that listens intently and obeys in any situation.

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