Training 101: The Do’s and Don’ts of Rewarding

We know, it’s hard to not spoil your scruffs with everything under the rainbow. After all, you love them. You want them to know how much you love them. Or maybe, you just really want them to stop barking at every dog, human and leaf that crosses their path and you think a yummy treat might do the trick. But before you throw them a bone (or toy, or treat, or kiss) – here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. THINK POSITIVE: Don’t reward your dog for stopping a negative behavior, only reward the positive. Think about it this way: You’re not going to reward a child for NOT coloring on the walls. Dogs are linear in their thinking; they see things strictly in terms of cause and effect. So if you give it a cookie to stop barking, it might serve as a temporary disruption but it won’t stop the behavior indefinitely. In fact, your dog will just end up associating that bad behavior with getting a cookie so you’ll be in for a rough ride.
  2. REWARD ATTENTIVELY: If you’re ever wondering why on EARTH your dog won’t sit" for that dog treat, maybe you’re not really speaking their language. Currency matters, and we each have different things that get us going. While Sparky might prefer the tasty cookie or dog treat, your four-legged child might respond more positively to affection or other social motivators. A good girl" can be even more valuable than a scrumptious treat for some dogs, so pay attention to what makes your scruff respond most effectively.
  3.  FOOD DOES NOT CURE FEAR: It happens all the time. Dog is scared of ‘x’. Human gives dog food to coax them out of anxious emotional state from ‘x’. Result: Dog is still scared of ‘x’ (but belly is slightly more full). Conditioning a dog to act differently, or to stop being scared of something, is totally different from rewarding. You can’t change your dog’s emotional state with food, you can only effectively do so by exhibiting repetitive, assuring, calm behavior that will then rub off on your dog. You’ll save a lot of time, energy and dog treats by doing it this way – we promise!