What Is Your Canine's Payscale? | Exploits of an Amateur Dog Trainer: Blog Edition

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Is Your Canine's Payscale?

Keeping up with the jobs theme I guess, I was thinking more about how I "pay" Wally for jobs and tasks well done, or for doing well during training.

It's pretty simple here, everything he gets is something he considers to be "high value". In other words, this is something he is really excited about getting and really loves to have. For Wally, that's almost always some kind of food as he's highly food motivated. I always keep some bread or leftover pasta or some kind of tidbits he likes around so that I can capture things I like and it's always in reach for when I want to do some training or practicing some behaviors.

There's a couple ways to go with this. Some like to have varying degrees of reward, saving the best stuff for the hardest tasks and/or the best performances. Some just use one kind of reward - finding something the dog likes and just using it. I like to just use something he loves every time. 

Along with the value of the reward, there's the frequency of reward. Some reward every single correct response, some require multiple correct responses before a reward. Really, each has a use during the training process and beyond into the "real world" where the behavior is asked for in a practical applications. During the early stages of learning and in beginning use in practical situations, a reward each time can be an advantage. Once the behavior is set and is reliable, switching to a more random frequency (and try to be truly random, don't do every 3rd success all the time, etc, dogs can indeed pick up on patterns like that) can make the dog much more willing to perform the behavior over and over again, in the hopes that this time, the reward will come.

So reward delivery can come in various flavors and styles, making for many ways to "pay" your dog for successful jobs well done. Eventually, the job hopefully will become a reward on some level in and of itself, and even the opportunity to do the job, but these things come later down the road after an established history of "good pay".