It is highly important that we reward our dog at appropriate times. Rewards are a great tool to encourage or nurture certain behaviours from our dog. Put simply, we reward our dog when it is doing something that we like or when it is demonstrating a calm and relaxed state. Rewards can be given in many different ways. Basically a reward is anything that we know our dog will like.
Examples of Rewards:
- Patting your dog
- Giving your dog food (or something else it is driven or excited about such as a ball)
- Picking up your dog or letting it on the couch
- Letting your dog in through a doorway
- Throwing the ball for your dog
- Letting your dog say hello to other dogs
- Walking your dog, moving forward with your dog
- Letting your dog sniff in the park or go to the toilet
- Putting the walking leash on your dog (or anything that is part of the ritual and preparation of walking your dog)
- Giving your dog ‘free time’ in the park and letting it off the leash
- Giving your dog a toy to play with
- Inviting your dog into the car
Unless your dog has any negative associations with any of these actions they generally all mean good things to your dog.
Remember we only reward wanted behaviour and we NEVER reward a dog when they ask for it, that would mean they would be telling us what to do!
For example WE NEVER:
- Give a treat when our dog jumps up on us
- Let our dog jump up on the couch or bed without us inviting them
- Let our dog run through a doorway or gate in front of us
- Throw the ball when our dog is jumping up at us, trying to snatch the ball or barking at us to throw the ball.
- Pat or give our dog attention when it approaches us for it (instead wait until your dog is calm and quiet and then call it over to you for a pat)
- Open a door when our dog scratches on it or cries for us to open it (instead wait a moment until the dog is quiet and still before opening)
It is useful to set up structures and routines with your dog to assist it in understanding your communication. For example it is a great idea not to make a big fuss over your dog when you first get up in the morning. Quietly and calmly take your dog out for a walk and then reward it later with a meal and cuddles on its bed afterwards. This will reinforce your leadership while you are out on the walk and also tell your dog that its bed is a great place for it to settle as this is a place where it receives love and affection.
If you follow these guidelines consistently your dog will soon work out what sort of behaviour they are to demonstrate to get what they want.
Remember that a dog is not a good dog or a bad dog, it just demonstrates different behaviours and states. We need to be aware of which states we are encouraging from our dogs. Don’t confuse the dog’s current state with the way you see the dog. For example a dog that is in a crazy state doesn’t mean that the dog is crazy, we are just allowing it to behave in this way.
One last tip – A tired dog is usually more relaxed and calm. So daily exercise is of the highest priority for your dog’s well being.