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Rewarding your dog is a way to motivate and encourage behaviour that you would like him to repeat or adopt.
When I ask my clients to reward their dog in training lessons following good behaviour, I often get different reactions: it goes from a small “that’s good” for the less expressive owners to a big 3-minute paw for the most “gaga” owners of their dog.
To reward your dog well, you have to find the right reward, respect the right timing and above all, adapt it according to the level of obedience of your pet but also its character.
For example, with H, my Border Collie, I noticed that big pats or “toy” rewards tended to excite him, which was sometimes not the behaviour I wanted him to adopt, especially in the middle of an exercise where I wanted him to concentrate. So I was able to adapt the level of my rewards: during an exercise, a small verbal reward or a light caress is enough to reward behaviour that I wanted him to adopt at a certain moment. On the other hand, at the end of an exercise, a big congratulation with a caress and a cheerful voice signal the end of the work and possibly a play session to reward him further.
What is the purpose of rewarding your dog?
The reward allows your dog to assimilate an action performed with something positive, and we will see just after what are these “positive things” that you can offer to your dog. This positive association will allow your dog to repeat an action to be able to access again what he wants (whether it is a verbal reward, a caress or a play session).
Rewarding your dog means motivating him to do it again and, above all, it means reinforcing a behaviour that you want your dog to repeat.
Be careful, however, to ensure that the rewards are given at the right time and consistent! Concerning the timing, it’s very important because if you don’t reward at the right time, you risk rewarding and thus reinforcing another behaviour than the one initially desired. And regarding consistency, it is obvious that you should not reward your dog indiscriminately and that the rewards must be “special” enough to bring them some value.
In addition, rewards should be fair and appropriate for each situation. For example, if your dog knows how to sit perfectly, you won’t give him a treat every time he does it. On the other hand, if, for example, your dog has a lot of trouble listening to you when there are other dogs and one day at the park, he came back to you the first time when you called him back, then it’s a big party, and we reward a lot to show the dog that this specific behaviour is top-notch.
What rewards can you offer your dog?
The verbal reward
This reward is certainly the most used daily because it allows a rather spontaneous interaction with the animal. Nevertheless, when you reward your dog only with your voice, you have to know how to play with different intonations because if you tell your dog “that’s good” in the same way as you would tell him “no”,… The dog simply won’t understand and won’t feel particularly rewarded. On the contrary, this exchange will not put him at ease, and his behaviour may be different in the future because remember that the dog is opportunistic and goes for what is pleasant for him. If your “that’s nice” is not pleasant enough for him, he will simply not repeat the behaviour that got him your cold, neutral “that’s nice”.
Don’t be afraid of ridicule for verbal rewards, know how to exaggerate the high notes, and have a positive intonation.
The game reward
This is a complicated reward to give during an exercise, but it’s quite suitable at the end of an exercise that has required a lot of concentration from your dog.
Be careful to offer a game adapted to your pet, don’t hesitate to consult our article, which explains how to play with your dog.
Petting as a reward
Be careful with the caress; it is very common, and yet it is not appreciated by all. Indeed, just like humans, some dogs are not tactile and do not appreciate “intrusions” in their bubble.
It is, therefore, very important to know how to read your dog’s signals of appeasement when you pet him. If he licks his nose quickly and repeatedly, if he yawns or if he turns his head, it means that he doesn’t like your gesture and that obvious petting is not a reward for him.
In this case, use verbal rewards instead. I invite you to read our article on communication with your dog to understand and interpret all the signals your pet sends you.
Moreover, never forget that a “correct” pet is a requested pet (hand stretched out towards the dog’s nose before going ahead with the act), and if the dog accepts the contact, be sure to pet rather on the side or under the dog’s neck (not on the head).
The treat reward
Not always well seen, this reward is nevertheless one of the most effective if you have a dog that is half canine/half bottle on legs. Of course, you have to be reasonable, don’t “stuff” your dog and always offer him quality products. After all, you are not a junk food dispenser!
The treat is often the most effective because it is the reward they are looking for for our dear opportunistic friends.
However, your dog may not be greedy or simply not hungry at the time of exercise. Also, when dogs are stressed or overheated, they often have no particular appetite. Therefore, if you focus your dog’s education on training with treats, you may be stuck.
I, therefore, recommend that you vary the rewards, firstly so that your dog does not only listen to you when you have a treat in your hands, and secondly so that you do not find yourself stuck in one day your dog does not want it.
The reward of getting
As we’ve seen, dogs are opportunistic animals who will readily go for what pleases them. And simply getting what they want is a form of reward in itself.
To illustrate my point, nothing could be simpler than to give you a very clear example: your dog barks at the door to go out. You don’t particularly like this behaviour, but he will end up doing his business in the house if you don’t open the door. If you open the door directly, you reward him for barking by allowing him to do what he wants to do, which is to get out of the house. Thus, you have taught him that barking gets him out = Bad learning!
On the other hand, if you go to your dog and ask him to sit (or whatever instructions he already knows) and he complies, and you open the door at that moment = You have taught your dog that calming down and obeying allows him to get what he wants.
Thus you will have understood; the rewards must be adapted to your dog’s character, to your way of doing things, your vision of education and especially they must always be positive and go in the direction of a coherent education.


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Caring for and understanding a dog is not instinctive! helps you see more clearly by offering you many tips to live better with your four-legged friend and to preserve his health … all, with a lot of positive education and natural care!

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