In any kind of positive pet training, the most important knowledge for the trainer to have is what the dog, cat, parrot or other pet considers a reward for a job well done. Rewards aren't always an easy thing for positive trainers to comprehend. If I had a dollar for every time someone has told me that they can't teach their dog (or other pet) anything because the pet isn't motivated by food, I would be very rich. And if I was abundantly wealthy, I'd spend some extra money on sending those people to a workshop about alternative positive reinforcement training rewards. It just so happens that I have very rewarding training sessions with all of my pets, despite the diversity in what they consider a reward.
A lot of dogs are motivated by toys. The same focus that a dog has waiting for a ball to be thrown or the joy they have when squeezing a squeaker can be harnessed for positive reinforcement training. Good advice I was once given at a motivation in training seminar is that the dog must pick the toy that is used for a training reward. But once the dog has chosen this favorite of rewards, the toy should then only be used for training. Each of my dogs has a special training toy that only comes out during training sessions. Not only does each dog get to learn and enjoy special time with me, but they get precious playtime with a favorite toy. Another observation made by a trainer at a positive reinforcement training seminar I attended (about Huxley) was that movement itself was a reward (to him.) Sometimes the kind of toy that is a training reward or even what game is played doesn't matter. Any kind of fun as a reward for the work keeps training from being dull.
Not all pets are motivated by food, toys or play rewards. My first experience with a praise motivation in positive reinforcement training was with Tynan. When we first started training, Tynan was very enthusiastic. But as a novice he became bored and disinterested. Was he really done with learning? When I ditched the treats and toys and focused on praise, attention and petting, Tynan's passion for training returned. He was so proud to work for a mouthful of "good boy"s and a belly rub. Leo may have learned this train for praise lesson from Tynan, but he also works for cheers. In fact, Leo is known for rewarding himself with a "good birdie" before I even get the chance to say it. Another fan of praise rewards in our household is Brychwyn. He'll often scoff at a treat and roll over in favor of numerous "what a good dog" exclamations accompanied by a tummy tickle.
Welcome to this months Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Cascadian Nomads, Dachshund Nola & Tenacious Little Terrier. Our December theme is rewards but any post with a positive reinforcement training theme is encouraged. The Linky below is open all week long so please join us, hop around, enjoy and learn! Next month will be the one year anniversary of this successful positive pet training hop. Please join us on January 5th to share training ideas and goals as well as entering to win an anniversary giveaway.