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What Behavior are You Rewarding the Most?


by Robin MacFarlane



The part of training that we put emphasis on is the part that the dog is going to be focusing on.

Celebrating when something is finished is a pretty typical human response. We celebrate the end of a big game (if our team wins). We celebrate graduating from various programs, and we celebrate the completion of projects. It seems to be in our DNA to make a big fuss about the ending of things.

If we are carrying that ideology over into our dog's training repertoire, we might be setting them up for some misunderstandings.

There are behaviors where I think rewarding the dog while in the behavior is more important than rewarding at the completion. For instance, what part of a Place command is the most important to you?

The part where you send the dog to the Place (bed, pillow) and he goes directly and immediately to it?

The part where the dog is on the Place and maintaining his position staying there?

or

The part where the dog is given permission to take a break, leave the Place, and is free to be at liberty?

What part would you want to emphasize and praise the dog for?

There is more than one right answer to this question, but IMO, you would want to emphasis either the sending or the staying part of the training. Those two objectives are the key ingredients to having a command that becomes really useful to you in your daily life with the dog.

I generally release my dogs from a command with minimal hoopla because I don't want them rocketing into excited behavior because we're finished. I want them to be excited about the training part!

We have to remember that the part that we create emphasis on is the part that the dog is going to be focusing on as well. So I think it makes the most sense to focus and reward the dog for getting into a behavior and maintaining it, rather than focusing on the release when it is over.

If we create lots of hoopla and excitement around our permission cues to take a break and be free, what part do you think the dog is being lead to believe is the best part of the work?

There is value in delaying rewards and building drive through explosive release commands, but I'm talking about the everyday pet who we typically want to just chill out and settle when a stationary command is given.

Give this concept some thought. Are you putting emphasis on the part of the training you'd be better off treating in a more nonchalant manner?
-- Robin



Robin MacFarlane is a professional dog trainer and owner of Thatís My Dog in Dubuque, Iowa. Her best-selling dog training DVDs, JUST RIGHT and JUST RIGHT 2 have helped thousands of dog owners teach their dogs basic obedience and fix problem behaviors through a system of training that you can easily work into your daily routine.
  • Robin writes for Gun Dog Supply on our E-collars Dog Training blog
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  • Read her other posts here on RobinMacFarlane.com




  • Pull-Quote= Celebrate the good behavior rather than just the end of it.



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