- Michelle Hill
- I am the Dog Trainer Girl. A wife to a wonderful husband, momma to 2 boys, one that is a mini-me and makes me call my dad and appologize on a regular basis. I am owned by a Corgi named Yadi. I'm a Baseball girl, who likes bats, ball and bases on my diamonds. Go Cardinals!!!
Monday, March 25, 2019
The Value of Reinforcements
The one thing I hear the most as a trainer is, “my dog just won’t listen to me”.
During the first class of my manners courses, I always talk about what reinforcements are. I try to stress to my students that it really doesn’t matter what we (the humans) want to give our dogs, but what they (the dog) deem worth working for.
I stress the importance of playing around with things like food and toys to see what your dog likes to work for.
Take my own dog, for example, Tazie, a Chihuahua / Corgi Mix, that was always been rather picky over the years about what he wants. Some days he will work all day for just plain training treats in chicken or liver treats. Then there are the times when something else has his attention and I need to pull out cheese, then you have the days where he only wants to play with a toy and fetch and tug games are the best things in the world.
When talking about writing this post with one of my very best friends and fellow trainer, she reminded me of a commercial a year or so back from Trident gum where the babysitter was so happy that the parents were paying her in gum. That’s what we have to keep in mind, what do our dogs value?
Several years back when I first started training, I worked with a Vizsla named Buffett. He had a huge play drive and was ball obsessed. I could have a t-bone steak in one hand and a tennis ball in the other and he wouldn’t think twice about grabbing the ball. I was able to use the ball and a game of fetch as a reward for him doing what I asked. Your reinforcement doesn’t have to food based, remember it’s what your dog wants not what you want to give her. I’ve worked with dogs that couldn’t care less about food or toys but would get so happy when their owners would lean down and scratch behind an ear for a sit or a down. There are other dogs that will move mountains just to hear their owner’s happy voice praising their behavior.
Next time you take your dog out somewhere be prepared, take along some super yummy treats (and we are not talking this morning’s leftover kibble), or your dog's favorite toy, and don’t forget your baby talk voice. When your dog’s attention is taken away from you, baby talk her and pull out the yummies, make yourself more interesting than everything else.
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