In order to do any training at all, you have to find a reward that is meaningful to your dog.
A monotone “good girl” isn’t going to cut it. How do you like it when your boss says, “great job” with no inflection? Wouldn’t you rather have a sincere compliment with a note for your personnel file, or the rest of the day off, or a bonus? How much would it take to really give you an incentive?
Well, your dog wants a meaningful reward as much as you do. The trick is to use a reward that your dog values.
Most dogs respond well to food as a reward. Training treats should be healthy foods in tiny pieces so your dog doesn’t tire of them. Some dogs go nuts over a stick or a tennis ball or a favorite toy.
But some dogs don’t seem to care about treats or toys, especially not when something more interesting is going on. Through trial and error, I learned that Sage cannot resist when I sprint and laugh. When I incorporated this silly reward into our training, she definitely started paying more attention!
Just the other day I helped a friend teach her dog to fetch a tennis ball, just by cheering… REALLY enthusiastically. Maggie worked hard for my cheers; she found them incredibly enjoyable! My friend had to loosen up, get excited and more sincere with her cheering. Soon Maggie started performing for her too!
Freedom can be the greatest reward for some dogs. There may be many situations where your “release” is what the dog yearns for – turn that into your most powerful reward for the desired behavior.
And then there’s Rio, well he just likes a nice grilled steak (chopped into little pieces, of course). My good old fashioned boy 🙂