Rewarding Your Dog Appropriately


Welcome to December’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian NomadsDachshund Nola & Tenacious Little Terrier. Our December theme is rewards but any posts about positive training are welcome. 

Every dog has their own hierarchy of rewards. The majority of dogs find food enticing but there’s also toys, petting and praise, and life rewards (being allowed to sniff, play with other dogs, going outside etc).

Mr. N has a lot of prey drive. When we do lure coursing, there’s no need to reward him for a successful run. He finds chasing after the bag itself highly satisfying. Usually the problem is getting dogs to leave the lure! For dogs who are highly prey motivated, they make fur tugs. Sometimes if Mr. N is being good and if I’m in a situation to do so, I’ll let him go chase squirrels/rabbits/birds.

When I trained Mr. N to walk on a loose leash when we first adopted him, I trained him using the “be a tree” method. We would just stop whenever he pulled and sometimes walk in the opposite direction. I didn’t train him to walk nicely on a leash using food because he would have eaten his weight in food (we stopped… a lot!) and I didn’t want to be bending down every five seconds. Instead, he was rewarded with being able to walk forward and sniff.

It took two frustrating weeks but now he walks very nicely. He still sometimes has trouble controlling himself around horses though. But we see horses so rarely, it’s not worth trying to train separately.

Some dogs really love toys but Mr. N has never had that much toy drive. He likes to play with toys on his terms on his time. He enjoys trying to steal Sage’s toys though. I’d like to try training him with a food jackpot toy sometime.

We mainly train using food because it’s easy and reliable. Mr. N has high standards and will only work for at least medium value treats. He will not work for kibble or biscuits or fruits/vegetables reliably. He gets small, soft treats (like Cloud Star, Real Meat, or think!dog) for clicker training and freeze-dried treats, cheese, liver and various meats for more difficult tasks like recall and ignoring other dogs.

I hate bending down umpteenth times so I’ve trained Mr. N to lean on me/or other people for treat delivery

When you train your dog with rewards, they love to work. I was clicker training Mr. N in the living room, and the boyfriend interrupted to ask a question. I turned towards him and was answering when Mr. N picks up the clicker and slams it in my hand. And looks at me as if to say, “this is my training time and you should only be paying attention to me!”

I guess when we expect our dogs to solely concentrate on us during training and ignore distractions, they expect the same courtesy!

Next month will be the one year anniversary of our positive pet training hop. Please join us on January 5th to share training ideas and goals as well as entering to win an anniversary giveaway.




40 Responses

  1. Emma

    December 1, 2014 11:44 am

    We use different rewards for different things. For our nose work we get real high value treats so we know finding the odor is worth the effort. Bailie and I both have super high prey drive which is why Bailie excels at tracking and for her the reward is just tracking, but she still gets a high value reward when she finds the end article. We can't go off leash, though because of our hound noses. We would be off for hours hunting. We agree with you on the toys, we could care less about them, so not a good reward for us either.

  2. SlimDoggy

    December 1, 2014 2:14 pm

    Jack is very food motivated so he is pretty easy to train. Maggie is our challenge because while she is food motivated, her fear foten gets the better of her.

  3. Cascadian Nomads Bethany

    December 1, 2014 5:40 pm

    Excellent rewards post! I forgot all about life rewards which is odd since they are probably what my dogs get the most. When I pose then for photos, they have trouble if they really want to sniff something near by or eat grass. But as soon as I remind then they are working, I get the best photos in those situations because life has provided a high value reward. I should take some pictures of those excited releases some time… The frenzy to sniff a bush or nibble on grass is almost as cute as the photo I posed them for!

  4. Lauren Miller

    December 1, 2014 9:21 pm

    Great post!! I've noticed a lot of times when people say their dog's are not food motivated, they are usually using crappy treats! Like my friend was trying to work with his ball possessive dog and trying to play the trade game. His dog wouldn't trade him for his treats. I gave him some of my treats and the dog instantly gave up the ball for them. 😀

  5. Amy Boyer

    December 1, 2014 10:36 pm

    Haha love the story at the end, "pay attention to ME!" Toby has one reward – food. He will eat anything and knows when he's earned his treat. When we started linking commands he was very confused, expecting a reward each time. It's been hard for him to do more than 2 things before he gets his reward.

  6. Groovy Goldendoodles

    December 1, 2014 11:21 pm

    You know I tether trained Harley in the house. And I continued with that same principal when we were on our walks. To this day, he walks with me, I stop when he stops, and he stops when I stop. It works for us!

  7. Gilligan Ahoy

    December 1, 2014 11:21 pm

    Spectacular training tips! This resembles some stuff my Papa is trying with me! I agree that not barking at other dogs is one of the hardest ones, especially for me… I'm getting these new bacon treats that I just LOVE, which is making a big difference.

    We will have to join this 'Hop! *wags*

  8. Sage

    December 2, 2014 3:01 am

    As you know, Sage is totally food motivated. We worked on 'shake' the other day (what was I thinking? Sage hates her feet touched :D) and got no where. Maybe in time!!

  9. Cathy Armato

    December 2, 2014 4:18 pm

    I'm jealous that in only 2 weeks you trained Oz not to pull on leash! It took me much, MUCH longer to train my Husky not to pull on leash (using a no pull harness) & we sometimes still have to re-enforce the training. (Yeah, I know, she's a Husky so DUH! of course she pulls). Food is the key motivator for my dogs, especially boiled chicken or hot dog – those are like the holy grail of treats to them. Distractions are so important to really solidify training. It's not so easy once you leave the living room – LOL!

  10. Janet Keefe

    December 4, 2014 12:09 am

    The tree thing has never worked for me. We were able to clicker train Luke with treats for loose leash walking, but we didn't start until he was older, and he's a big dog, so it's easier to hand the treats off….no bending over.
    I love that Mr. N demands you pay attention to him when you're training – you really know he loves it then!
    I would love to join the hop next month for your anniversary, I just hope I can remember. Is there any way I can be reminded? 🙂
    Lots of wags and woofs from the crew at Wag n Woof Pets

  11. Mary @ Stale Cheerios

    December 9, 2014 5:22 am

    LOL. I love your story at the very end about Mr. N demanding that you continue with the training!

    I see that you mentioned the think!dog treats… I've only recently been introduced to the think!dog treats, but they are quickly becoming one of my favorites.

  12. Angie's Angle

    February 19, 2016 6:10 am

    I too totally giggled at the last part of your post and could see it happening. I'll admit Roxy is not trained at all. We didn't get her until she was 5 though, so she was pretty set in the way she did things and acted. She's a good girl though for the most part. lol

  13. MyDogLikes

    February 19, 2016 3:42 pm

    Sharing as much as we can about positive training is so important. If you want to make lasting behavioral changes it is the only way. You have done such a wonderful job with Mr. N!

  14. Kia

    February 19, 2016 9:06 pm

    Great post! Simba is definitely mostly treat motivated for sure. That is too funny about Mr N feeling some type of way about you ignoring him for a moment during training. Too cute!

  15. Rosa Doodle

    February 20, 2016 12:55 am

    I've never heard of the "be a tree" method of leash training. I find that's how I walk my dogs most the time. I enjoy letting them sniff and explore. I don't know it that's part of this method or not?

  16. Pawesome Cats

    February 20, 2016 3:40 am

    As an owner of cats not dogs, I'm always interested in your training tips and how they might work for cats. Charlie has already mastered the lean on me for treat delivery.

  17. Cathy Armato

    February 20, 2016 5:48 am

    That is so funny that Mr. N thrust the clicker into your hand, LOL! He is not one to be ignored. My dogs are all about the food as reward.
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them


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