It’s not always about the hot dogs and no, not real money. When you begin training your dog, you will determine your marker and reward system. This is extremely important to be consistent with as you
move through your training. Just as we work our way through our jobs and careers, our dogs will begin to work for minimum wage and grow as their tasks grow. Remember your first job making about $5/hour? You thought you were rich then! As you grew, learned more, gained more experience the pay increased. This applies to our dogs and essentially the goal is to have your dog working with you; YOU as their reward, because let’s face it, we are the BEST thing in our dog’s lives. Unfortunately this is where many dog owners make mistakes. Let’s break down the top five key points to remember when you are essentially establishing your pay scale.
Pick a marker and stick to it. When we teach our students markers we create three distinct cues. Yes = YOU DIT IT and is always followed by a reward. The key term there is, it is always FOLLOWED by a reward. This is important to remember with both your type of reward and when you phase off of food. Good = you are doing it keep doing it. This marker is used as
Determine your reward. This should begin with food and lure. We train our dogs with food, because, well most dogs LOVE food. Let’s discuss this for a moment though, food does not
So now, let’s determine what a reward actually is. re·ward noun a thing given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement. A thing…this “thing” can be anything from verbal praise, physical praise, food, and yes even PLAY! It’s not all about the hotdogs. The higher you pay out for simple and easier commands, the more you and your dog will struggle as commands, situations, and environments become more difficult and the dog begins to demand a higher payout.
It’s not all about the food. Consider this, your dog recalls to you, you say YES, pop a treat in their mouth and go on your merry way. Though that 2 second interaction was rewarding, more because food was involved, but there was little relationship interaction. Imagine, now, your dog recalls to you, YES and out comes a tug, a ball gets thrown, or you simply spend 30 seconds giving them a quick pet. NOW THAT’S A REWARD! Food has it’s place in every training situation, but we do not want to rely on it to the extent that when you get ready for a walk, you grab your jacket, phone, dog, leash, poop bags, but doggone it, I forgot that bag of hot dogs, we can’t go for a walk without that. Phasing out food and making YOU the reward, what a world it would be for us and our dogs!
Stay consistent, stick to it, and be patient! Keep up with your training, don’t rush it, be patient. I mean it takes us 12 years just to accomplish our high school diploma! Here’s something to let sit with you this week, would you accept a position as a CEO of a billion dollar company at $10/hour? Heck no! So when you are working with your dog, be sure your reward matches the entire situation your dog is working through. A sit at home, in an empty room, with no distractions