Bubble Wrap & Pet Chickens

The advent of positive reinforcement has been an incredible leap forward in how we train our dogs. However as with anything in life, there are drawbacks. In my opinion the drawbacks in this training system are not the system per se, but rather the implications of human perceptions and personal beliefs.

Ask anyone what a “reward” is and the answer is more than often one of following: food, toy, petting etc. Yes, these are certainly all rewards, but we should be thinking more laterally. A reward is anything that the dog would perceive as desirable, at that point in time.

If I work my little crossbreed on a hot day he is more likely to find a swim more rewarding than playing with his ball. Common sense, but all too often overlooked.

It can be a little daunting to try figure out what your dog would like as a reward and let’s be honest, it’s much easier to just pull out the standard liver cake! However, if I really want to make an impression on my dog I should be prepared to understand and meet his wishes. Of course, my Great Dane’s wish to eat my pet chicken is not one that I will comply with – no matter how marvellous her response to my request.

We also need to consider that sometimes our dog’s wish may have no apparent benefit – they may like it, just ‘cos. Why do I like popping bubble wrap? I have no idea, but I do know that it can be a very powerful motivator for me. Why does my Labrador like jumping up and down? I don’t know and frankly, who cares? It doesn’t hurt anyone and using it as a reward is both highly satisfying for him and a powerful training tool for me.

Reward your dog with what he wants – not what you think he would want. Pet chickens excluded of course.