Works a Treat! Is your dog a smart cookie?

Do you use positive reinforcement when training your dog?

Definition: Adding a positive stimulus contingent on a behavior in order to increase the probability of that behavior happening again.

Ok here’s a few examples: When you call your dog to you (ie recall) do you give him a treat, a tid bit or lots of praise? That’s positive reinforcement

If you’re house training your puppy, when it looks like she is about to go you take her outside and when she goes do you give her loads of cuddles or a small treat and tell her she’s the best dog in the world? That’s positive reinforcement.

Dogs are very much like us, they want to know What’s in it for me. Would we do our dull 9 to 5 job if we didn’t get paid a wage? Would we go to the gym if we thought it wouldn’t get us fit and shapely to get into that dress or bikini?

Positive reinforcement is a way of training your dog to do something again because they have received a positive or good thing that they will make them want to repeat again and again to get that reward. I know if someone waved a bar of chocolate or a tenner in my face and asked me to mow the lawn, I’d do it!

Think ‘What motivates my dog?’ Find the thing that makes your dog go do-lally and use it to motivate him into fun training! It can be squeeky toys, balls, bubbles, food, all dogs are different.

Recently I did a coaching consultation and the dog was a bit of an independant terrier, did his own thing at home and was starting to get too big for his boots and get himself in trouble with the family. I usually get owners to do more bonding and play with their dog, on the humans terms, not the dogs.  It’s amazing how people are unaware that their dog has been the one to initiate a game. The dog trots over to the owner with his favourite toy in his mouth and either drops it at their feet or in their lap and then looks up, or they start playing with the toy right in front of owner inviting him to join in. Who is being trained now?

Anyway, this very smart terrier was one of these type of dogs, he’d squeek his ball and one of the family would come running to play with him! So we tried it my way. We all sat chatting as he tried every single one of us, me included, into a game of ball, we ignored him and eventually he went and lay in his bed. I then asked each member of the family to try and get him to come to them for a play or a cuddle using something they thought would motivate him. Guess what happened? Only 1 of them got him out of his bed, they had a treat, he sniffed it and then went back to his bed and lay back down. Does that surprise you? To many owners it doesn’t.

I then pulled out my home made treats (tuna&cheese flavour) I always have them with me coaching and have yet to meet a dog who doesn’t like these babies. I asked each person to walk past sleeping beauty and whaft the treat under his nose and walk to the far end of the kitchen and call him. All of a sudden there was a different dog in the house, he came when called, he was giving paws and doing tricks, he wanted to interact now, on their terms. Why? Because they had found what motivated him and he found something good in it for him to repeat the behaviour.

Smart cookie is an understatement! You can find my treats and what I do Here

Please leave a comment if you liked this post or find me on Facebook -Bernie Browne

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6 responses to “Works a Treat! Is your dog a smart cookie?”

  1. Sandra says :

    Great Bernie! This is a fun blog to read. As a former (and now occasional) dog sitter, I’m enjoying the tips and insights. I’ve always known dogs were smart, but my guess is they are even smarter than we think if we just talk their language more.

    • 4dogday says :

      Thanks Sandy, I totally agree on how smart dogs are, they could buy and sell us in a heartbeat if they could talk! Thank god they cant 🙂

  2. Michelle Lopez says :

    Oh, this is GREAT! So many dog lovers out there that can use your help…myself included!

    • 4dogday says :

      Thanks Michelle, I hope dog owners can pick up tips and hints that make living together a lot easier and stress free for humans and canines 🙂

  3. Michelle says :

    Bernie, its wonderful how all of our pets have such different and unique personalities just like us. So glad you worked wonders with the family of the smart terrier and I bet the dog is just as thrilled…better treats for him!! I have a South American parrot, who behaves just like a child – a very demanding but beautiful bird who is a special part of the family and of course she loves her treats too. Thanks for sharing your insight and experience to enable us to better engage with our animals.

    • 4dogday says :

      Thank you Michelle for your comments, I hope that anyone living with another species might be able to pick up ideas on how to make a better relationship with them by remembering they are not human, just that first step brings communication and understanding withing everyones reach.

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