Axholme Tails: Use rewards effectively

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During training sessions we hear the sounds of praising and rewarding. But its not just about learning in class its what we do out of it that’s as important.

The what, when and how we use rewards or punishers affects learning too. You need to start by knowing what to use. We know it’s not for us to decide what is a reward or punisher. A bit like loving or hating Marmite, it’s an individual opinion. Then how it can be used to best effect. Good timing is required. too early or late and the dog will have difficulty making an association with the behaviour you meant it to. Dogs bottom hits the ground but you reward when it stands up again. No problem. You simply missed the wanted behaviour, a sit and the dog got an extra biscuit. But its easily fixed by getting the timing right next time. The dog greets you when you come home but you tell him off for peeing in the house several hours earlier. With punishers it teaches the dog to fear the situation it was punished for. The dog learns to fear you coming home as that was the last thing he did when he received the punisher. Not so easily fixed. Use the right level of reward or punisher. You recall the dog on a walk, he flies back at great speed and you give him a bit of biscuit. Well great, thinks the dog I wont rush back for that next time. Easily fixed by giving an appropriate level of treat to suit the achievement next time. A huge reward when he nails a command and a basic for going through his paces. The dog will strive to achieve his best for the best rewards. Jerk the choke collar, shock or spray for barking at another dog. The behaviour is interrupted and stops but the element of surprise is lost and the dog gets used to it so next time it needs a harsher application until it is bordering on abuse. Or the dog may shut down to avoid being punished. Not so easily fixed. Rewards are the easiest to deliver, the most forgiving of your mistakes, and the least likely to cause harm to the dog.