December 26, 2009


When you train your dog, you need to find a reward that the dog will work for. For many dogs it is food. Some dogs work for squeaky toys or tennis balls. A very few even work for praise alone! When you are finding something for your dog's reward, try many different things. This list has a few ideas for you:

  • Throwing a tennis ball
  • Squeaky toys
  • Other toys
  • Cherrio's
  • Liver
  • Ham
  • Pet Store dog treats
  • Leftover dog-safe foods
  • Cheese cracker pieces
  • Petting and PRAISE in High Pitched voices

But don't pick just one. Choose a few varities of rewards and mix it up. Sometimes you can just praise and pet, other times throw a ball, and for really good performances you can JACKPOT with several treats or rewards and lots of excitment. This keeps the dog guessing at what comes next and wanting to work to earn something.

By definition, a REWARD comes after the fact. For example, I ask Mya to sit. Once she sits, the clicker clicks and a reward is produced from some hidden place (like a pocket or behind your back). A BRIBE would be holding a treat out to Mya, showing it to her, and asking for a sit because she has seen what I have. Mya will then choose whether or not to listen to the cue based on how good she deems the BRIBE, instead of the surprise of the REWARD. BRIBES seem easier to use when training (and I confess to using them myself without paying attention to what I am doing!) but in the long run, REWARDED cues hold together better and get better responses.

A LURE is similar to a bribe, but is used when the dog is learning a new cue. If I was training Mya to sit using LURES (there are many different ways to teach dogs; shaping, capturing, etc), I would hold the treat over her head to LURE her into position. Once she started to realize what I wanted, I would stop luring and only use words or signals. If I continued to use a LURE, it would have become a BRIBE and Mya would once again be choosy in responding to cues.

Let me know if you have any questions as I am sure that was a confusing post!

Happy Training and a late Merry Christmas 2009!

Alex and Mya