To understand how effective your reward will be, it’s important to remember that it’s your responsibility to understand how your dog best responds. So, the first task is to understand what motivates them - food or a toy?
What to use will depend on how Puppy is at the time of your exercise or training. Here are some things to think about:
Rewards will always have a huge role to play in any kind of exercise, trick or training that you and your puppy will be doing. The reward will motivate your puppy to enable you to achieve the desirable behaviour that you find acceptable. He will learn that the reward is associated with achieving the right thing.
Food is generally the most effective, as puppies are nearly always hungry and scientifically we know that food is proven to stimulate the senses to help focus your puppy.
It’s important when food is identified as a successful reward, that you use a high value food - their own kibble may not stimulate enough excitement to want to think about what it is you’re expecting of them. The goal when puppy training is to get Puppy to problem solve and figure out what it is you’re asking, so they can then associate the action with the reward.
I've seen far too many times at puppy classes a puppy simply not showing any interest in its owner - there's a room full of potential play mates and the owner just isn’t quite as desirable as that urge to go play. Makes sense then to increase the value of the reward to get more attention from your puppy! Once the attention is achieved, your communication has a greater chance of becoming effective, as Puppy will associate the desired behaviour with the reward.
For puppies, high value, soft, smelly treats work great. I think tiny pieces of chicken breast are perfect for getting any puppy's attention.
You are also an integral part of the reward process. Your enthusiasm in a calm and reassuring way will guide puppy to the desired behaviour.
It’s also proven that Puppy will learn while they rest, so if resuming training straight after a nap, they are more likely to get a task right first time. That means that if your puppy rests often, they will learn more rapidly.
You should now feel you have a better understanding of the importance of reward and how it can make your training fun and exciting for both you and your puppy.
Next week we’ll talk about timing those positive rewards.