• Raychel Hill BSc (Hons)

Types of Reinforcement we can use during training!

Food: Keep your dog’s treats as healthy as you can. Chicken and real meat is a great idea, however other treats can be tiny bits of cheese and hot dogs. I recommend all my clients to experiment with different dog-safe food to see what REALLY gets those tails wagging. We reserve high value food for very important behaviours like recall, new cues and counter conditioning work! It is important to remember this is all to be INCLUDED in your dog's daily food allowance. If you are stuck for ideas, you could try: fish, left over meat, apples, liver cake/ paste, carrots, peas, egg whites etc. Scrumpy is such a fussy eater however he loves eggs!

Toys: Tugs (we love the Tug-E-Nuff Chasers), balls, Frisbees, a balloon, soft toys, dressing gown cords, ripped knotted towels- pretty much anything that gets your dog excited. You can work on waiting and then being released to get the toy as your reward to- using a marker when you use toys can be very helpful because we can mark the 'right' behaviour and reinforce (with playing with the toy) afterwards.

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The Environment: You can also reward your dog with access to the environment. For example, I taught Sonny to "Sit & Wait" for the door to open and being released is his reward. Or when we are walking- I give my dogs "sniff breaks" for walking nicely with me. Like, if you asked a child to eat their vegetables for dessert! It might take your dog a few repetitions to learn this, but once the dog learns the important lesson that YOU control access to the environment, your dog will be more interested in working for you even if you don’t have treats or toys with you. You want to teach your dog it is always in his best interest to do what you want him to do. Using a marker here is important to ensure you are rewarding what you wish to reward.

** When training new behaviours using a marker or clicker, only follow the click with food when you first start training your dog. You can reinforce your dog with food, toys, and the environment for behaviours he already knows, if your dog does not look disappointed or confused when given an alternate reward (besides food). **

Jackpots, jackpots, jackpots!!! Always be unpredictable with your reinforcement (treats and toys). If you always give the same treat, your dog can start to weigh the options: Sniff the dead rat or come back for a piece of kibble? If the dog thinks you’re predicable, he will be more likely to choose the environment over you. If your dog never knows what he might get as a reward, he’s going to take the risk and pass up on the dead rat.

Also by reinforcing your dog continually for the same behaviour with high value reinforcement, your dog will start to offer the behaviour, like a recall, even when he is not hungry because of the previous conditioning. I keep three different types of treats in my treat bag and keep rotating them so that my dogs don’t know what they will get next time. I also make sure that the toys I use for training are kept novel!!

Do feel free to get in touch if you have any training questions!

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