To Pay or Not to Pay

I find that people are understandably confused over which way is best to train their dog.  Basically there are 2 ways you can train your dog, by teaching them something then giving rewards for doing so, or through fear by scaring or hurting your dog to get what you want. Both ways create motivation for the dog but one according to science works better than the other.  I am sure you can guess which one!

Paying or rewarding your dog, known as Positive Reinforcement (R+) is way more likely to ensure that the behaviour is repeated in the future and while scaring or hurting the dog looks like it works and you will get results, at least in the short term,  it comes with many side effects including damaging your relationship with your dog.

In everyday life it is much easier to set your dog up to do what you want and then reward them, than to set them up to fail and punish them. 

To pay a dog you first need to find the currency the dog is willing to work for and usually food works best.  You can use praise affection, play, toys or access to something the dogs likes.  Using your dog’s daily food to get them to work for it instead of getting it for free is an excellent way to train your dog, but this won’t work if you leave food down for the dog to snack on all day.

But is it bribery? No!  The dog gets rewarded for doing what you ask  - you are the dispenser of the treats and as such need to use them wisely and not when your dog demands them.  Once a behaviour is reliably trained and your dog is repeating the behaviour you gradually reduce  the food treat replacing I with affection and praise giving a food treat only occasionally.

Dogs are after all always looking to do something that brings them enjoyment so all we have to do is set them up to do what we want and give them that enjoyment.  Why wouldn’t we want the best for our dogs anyway – they are supposed to be our best friends.