To achieve successful dog training, it is important to reward your dog appropriately. Unfortunately, when it comes to rewards, many dog owners only think of food. While that is quite attractive to many dogs, others have little interest in what they eat. What does a suitable reward look like with these dogs? Why does it make sense not to always use the same treats, even with hungry dogs?
Let’s see what dog-friendly rewards look like and why it is important to diversify them.
What Needs Does Your Dog Have?
Before I begin with dog rewards, I have an example for you. Imagine you’re sitting in front of the television watching a movie. The doorbell rings, you open it and get 10 dollars for it. You will probably be happy to open the door.
This scenario is repeated several times a day from now on. Sometimes you’re in the shower, sometimes you’re cooking, and sometimes you read a book when the doorbell rings. After a few repetitions, you know that you will get 10 dollars and start to weigh up: is it worth going to the door for 10 dollars, or is what I’m doing more interesting? The reward becomes predictable for you and gradually loses its appeal.
Let’s look at this example from a different angle.
Every time you open the door, you get different things for it. Sometimes it’s a bar of chocolate, sometimes it’s 100 dollars, sometimes a bottle of wine. So you never know what to expect: it could be a jackpot! Accordingly, you are likely to be curious and motivated to open the door, regardless of what you are doing.
Let’s get back to dogs, because it looks similar for them. If your dog gets the same chunk of food every time he is called back, he will get bored in the long run. If, on the other hand, you come up with different things, it remains exciting for him.
The more you consider your dog’s needs, the better the reward will be.
Examples of a dog’s needs :
- Social contact (cuddling)
- to hunt
You see that eating is only a need among tens of others. You can include many of them in your everyday dog training when it comes to rewarding your dog.
Reward Your Dog In a Varied And Appropriate Manner
Your dog’s needs alternate throughout the day. After a long walk on a hot day, your dog is more likely to crave a break or water than a racing game.
When it comes to appropriate rewarding, not only the need but also the right intensity is important. If your dog has been able to sit perfectly for ten years, you don’t need to have a huge party every time he sits down.
However, if you do anti-hunting training with your young dog, then the reward should definitely be impressive because of good cooperation.
Put yourself in your dog’s shoes and ask yourself “How difficult was it for him to show this behavior?”. After that, you can adjust the degree of your reward. Differentiate rewards that are okay and those that are absolutely great. Remember the motto: “The bait must taste good to the fish, not to the angler”.
Play As a Reward
Suppose your dog is running after a rabbit and comes back to you because you called him. This is a great achievement! Your dog may probably be in the racing mood, so a running game would be an appropriate dog reward now. You can run with him yourself, let him chase a ball or throw food that he can follow. This is how you can ideally include the current needs of your dog in your reward.
Playing together is also beneficial for your relationship with your dog. It’s fun and a bond between you and your dog.
My dog Luna would do almost anything for food. That is practical, because food is easy to take with you and quick to get out of the bag. Basically Nobody would speaks against using food as a reward. However, it is extremely boring when the same chunk of food is constantly being fed to your dog. A variety of food must be considered.
- Ice cream
- Liver sausage
- Dried fish
- Chicken meat
- Deliciously filled lick tubes
You are sure to come up with other goodies to reward your dog. Food is even better if you don’t give it emotionlessly, but instead add a social element, such as playing together.
Different ways of giving food as a reward:
- Throw away treats so your dog has to run after them
- Search for treats on the floor
- Package treats and he can tear them open
- Dig in treats and he can dig them up
- Hide treats in cracks in the wall, between roots or in tree bark
There are no limits to your creativity. What is not dangerous for your dog and what he likes is allowed.
Petting As a Reward
I hear from many dog owners that they pet their dog as a reward. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Just like us humans, they are not in a cuddling mood around the clock. Sometimes touching it can even be uncomfortable, for example, if your dog is very stressed.
Since we often touch our dogs in everyday life, being petted is nothing special for many dogs. It’s ok, but listening to the callback would be asking too much.
As friendly praise, petting is okay. If you want to teach your dog things that are difficult for him to do, the reward should definitely be more impressive.
Hunting As a Reward
“What, should I let my dog hunt?”
No, of course not, at least no deer, rabbits or other animals. There are good substitutes in the form of toys or food bags. You can work well with these “prey” if your dog has a passion for hunting.
Hunting is a very important need for many dogs, even if it is no longer pronounced in some. However, if your dog enjoys it, you should definitely include it in your reward options.
Rewarding Your Dog Properly Is Worth It
You may be thinking now that this sounds pretty complicated, but it only seems like that at first glance. It is far more complicated for your dog to find their way around our human world and to meet our often high standards.
By monitoring your dog closely and discovering his preferences, you can quickly get an overview of what he likes.
Not only will the result be a happy dog, but you’ll also find that you enjoy practicing and rewarding more.