5. Using Food as Rewards for Good Behavior - Value Perception in your Dog
For most dogs ‘food’ equals ‘fun’ and this is precisely why it is a good idea to use food to induce the qualities you would like your pet dog to have in him.
Using food rewards to let your dog get recognized for having done something right has traditionally been the way to train them.
Using food as rewards is all about finding what your dog will take cues from you for. Food rewards can also be used as a lure to teach body positions without having to physically force the dog into those.
At first try several different food tidbits. In case you are yet to find the right one, try identifying a toy your dog loves above all others and use that as his/her reward. You can complement this by stepping up the other methods of praise. Simply put, find what your dog will work for and finds valuable.
Choosing the Right Food Stuffs for Rewards
While choosing the food type that you would like to use for this purpose, it is best to observe the tastes of your dog rather than go by what is easy for you to handle or what you like. You can use a variety of food stuffs like cheese, chicken, liver, biscuits or treats bought off the shelves at stores.
A word of advice here: While buying pet treats keep a keen eye out for ones that do not contain food color, additives and other ingredients in them apart from excessive amounts of sugars and salt – these can be detrimental to your pet’s health.
Discipline with Morsels
It is very important that you do not feed your dog rewards and morsels of food without him earning the privilege. If you do feed him irregularly, you will only encourage poor behavior, such as your dog pestering people while they are at the dinner table. This also means that you must refrain from feeding your dog tidbits from the table as it can become a difficult habit to break.
Another reason for not feeding your dog random morsels is if you intend to use food as a training aid. Food that is easily available will seriously devalue the status of food in your dog’s eyes. If you restrict the morsels and tidbits only for training purposes then you will get a much better response from your dog.
Different Ways to Praise your Dog
There are a minimum of 5 different ways in which we can praise our dogs. They are:
- Verbal Praise
Since dogs communicate with each other through body language and facial expressions they automatically seem to learn to read ours. Food therefore is only one of many ways we can use to appreciate good behavior praise; the other methods when used in conjunction with food rewards to produce excellent results.
Phasing out food needs to be done using an unpredictable schedule for your dog. In other words you switch to a variable food reward schedule as a result of which they don’t know if they will get a treat, but they might. When food rewards are not given, simply use our other methods of praise instead.
Also use a reward marker word that implies that a treat is expected – the word yes! Used with a happy tone is a good one to use. Verbal praise of this sort must be used as the dog is doing the thing I have asked them to do, which in turn helps us be clearer for our dogs.
Alternative Training Methods
One of the alternatives in training is called ‘compulsion training’ which teaches dogs to respond in order to avoid an uncomfortable collar correction. While those methods work and have been used for many years, there is a right as well as a wrong way to do this kind of training as well. While employing these methods for training it is important to be as fair as possible to the dog lest you invoke fear in him. Using excess amounts of praise and rewards also may be necessary to make up for the apparent severity that you are imposing on your pet.
After learning and using both most dog owners prefer to use the more positive methods now whenever possible. This is because positive training helps build a special, solid bond between the dog and owner without the slightest element of fear.
In case you have a dog that seems not to be motivated by food rewards, the lure reward method works well with them. For instance, in deaf dogs simply use hand signals as cues instead of verbal.