Motivating Your Dog: Choosing Rewards for Dog Training

Part of the Dog Tricks & Agility For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Using positive reinforcement to train your dog means rewarding him when he does something you want to encourage. This kind of dog trick training is most effective when you know which treats and rewards really motivate your dog.

Dogs are like people — each one is excited by different things. Some are dedicated foodies — a tiny cereal snack or jerky bit will have them jumping through hoops and tearing up the A-frame in no time flat!

Others turn their principled noses from food bribes, but a squeak toy or a ball? How high and how fast? And then, of course, there are the praise junkies. For the sheer joy of affection — a loving touch or a cheery word — this happy soul will repeat sequences over and over. Find out what excites your dog the most, and use it as you teach him tricks and agility.

To conduct a tail-wagger ratings test, assemble some treats and a favorite toy or two. Practice your best “Yippee! Good Boy!” phrases.

Note: You’ll be testing each of these rewards separately, so conduct the test when you have a not-too-busy block of time. Then do the following:

  1. Begin with the treats. Ask your dog to “Sit.” When he does, reward him with a treat. Repeat this three times.

  2. One hour later, bring the toys to another part of your home and repeat the “Sit,” this time offering a toy or ball toss each time he sits.

  3. The next day, repeat the sequence again, but this time, offer only enthusiastic praise.

Okay. Score the results. Did your dog’s butt hit the floor in a nanosecond when you waved a biscuit? Did the toy send quivers down his spine? Or was it your happy voice that got the best back-end response? Of course you can mix it up and use all three when teaching your dog new tricks, but usually, one will stand out as the most beloved — the true tail-wagger. Use this one when first introducing anything new.

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Dog Tricks & Agility For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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