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How to Reward Your Dog in a Good Way

author Lucy Byrne | Care and raising

For most dogs, positive motivation works. You can have brilliant results with it in obedience or practising new tricks. It doesn’t matter how you decide to reward your dog or if you change the types of rewards. It isn’t probably a surprise that the most common reward is a treat. Caressing, a favourite toy, a short game or a simple compliment and showing you’re happy might also work well. 

With regard to treats, the most important thing in order not to mess with your dog’s health is to pick suitable treats. Your dog might be very obedient if you have a pocket full of bacon or biscuits but you might cause obesity or other health problems to your dog because of this. Fortunately, there are many healthy dog treats and even treats specifically designed for training on the market nowadays.

A treat pouch is practical for treats. When you have the right rewards prepared in it, you can start with training. However, you need to remember that not only the form of a reward but also its timing is very important. It has to come immediately after doing the requested task and the dog needs to know why it got the treat. A clicker might be great for this as you can do this signal even from a distance. You can read here about how to work with it. 

It also needs to be mentioned that rewards shouldn’t be regular. It’s very appropriate to change it. And it doesn’t matter if you change the kind of reward or just a kind of treat. It needs to be unpredictable for the dog and therefore more attractive. The size of the reward should also equal to what we ask the dog for. So, if it obeys your command “Sit”, the reward won’t be the same as for catching prey. 

Regular rewards are good for the stage of explaining and learning. And when the dogs know the commands well and definitely knows what you want it to do, it is time for variable rewards. The expectation provides the dog with the necessary energy, increases its activity and even releases dopamine.

For some dogs, even the activity itself might be a reward. It mainly applies to sports during which adrenaline is released (e.g. jumping within agility). This is because adrenaline is an addictive substance and the dog can easily become addicted to it. However, this might be also harmful if it crosses a certain line. If the dog rewards itself by doing a certain activity, we lose control over it and it loses its concentration. See the videos of dogs that run across the playground after agility like crazy. :)

For the end, remember that a dog should always exercise with joy. If it isn’t in the mood or the activity bores it, take a break. Do not force your dog to do any task. If it is needed, find a way to make training more attractive for it. It might be rewards, the environment or also inviting another dog companion to join you.