Tuesday, February 4, 2014

High Value Food Rewards

re▪ward    riˈwôrd
noun: reward; plural noun: rewards
1. a thing given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement.
"the holiday was a reward for 40 years' service with the company"
synonyms: recompense, prize, award, honor, decoration, bonus, premium, bounty, present, gift, payment; More
a fair return for good or bad behavior.
synonyms: recompense, prize, award, honor, decoration, bonus, premium, bounty, present, gift, payment;

There are various types of rewards that you can provide for your dog for good behavior. Toys, treats and praise. For this discussion I'm going to only focus on food rewards. Most of the discussions I have with clients revolve around food or treat rewards.

A reward can come in many shapes and sizes. Chunks of hot dogs, dry biscuits, kibble from their normal food, bacon, slices of chicken, various dog treats, it's up to your imagination as to what type of treats to give your dog.

What's not up to your imagination is the value that the dog puts into the rewards that you have chosen for her (For this discussion, the dogs will be referred to in the female gender).  The same can be said for anyone that you meet on the street. If you take a packet of bite size carrots and walk down the street and hand them out, first of all people are going to wonder why you're giving out free carrots, second of all not everybody is going to eat one. I myself can't stand carrots. So if you had hand one to me I would thank you for your kindness and then either return it or throw it away. On the other hand someone else may love them and gobble it up. The same can be said for chocolate, however there seems to be very few people that would turn down a bite of good chocolate. But they're out there! And you never know until you ask.

Now viewing this from the dog's perspective, we buy treats for dogs, usually erring on the side of lower prices. But, even though the dog may eat them, what ever they happened to be, is it the thing that she love the most? Is the drive is get more valuable than the food on your plate? Or her own dog food? We have to take this into consideration when we are asking them to do they're obedience training. If the reward that were offering isn't as interesting or valuable as going to the food bowl and getting the last few pieces of kibble out, then we need to reevaluate what we're trying to reward with.

You can easily view this as considering yourself and your employer. If your employer was to walk up and say that you would get a $5 bonus for working on your day off, would you do it? What if it was a $500 bonus? Ah, so there's more incentive there yes? The same can be said for your dog. If I hold a dry biscuit in front of their nose,  they may go after it, but in my other hand if I have a piece of cheese, or bacon, more than likely their interest will go to that hand.

So my question is, why continue to try to use the treats that you have been using up until now instead of turkey, chicken, bacon, cheese? You're not feeding this as a regular meal, you're merely using it to reward and behavior and then that treat is put away. It is a tool to make a behavior more consistent. Not something to do for the rest of her life or as a full meal.

Buy various types of treats when you're trying to work out what works best for her. Cook a few different things, drained as much grease off to possible of course, and then make small baggies. And over the next few days use different treats when doing your obedience. See what works best. I know some dogs that go crazy for those carrots we mentioned earlier. I'm working with a dog currently that loves banana chips. However, if I cook up some bacon, I can 99 percent of the time get a great  response from a dog during training.

Don't limit yourself to what works at the moment only, or what kind of works, or what's  "healthiest" , or what's cheapest. If you want the best behavior out of your dog, find the best treat for her!

Happy Training!

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