1. Food rewards are bribes. Owners often get these two actions confused. A bribe and a reinforcer are not the same thing. A bribe is produced before the desired behaviour, a reinforcer is produced after the behaviour. So if you show your dog a treat before asking them to perform a command – that is a bribe. If you reward after they have performed the command – that is a reinforcer.
2. If you use food, your dogs will always expect it. This is also a myth – just like we appreciate rewards occasionally for doing well, so do our dogs. Unless you have bribed them in the past during training, your dog does not expect a reward each and every time.
3. Dogs should work because they love you. Some owners like to think that dogs should find working for their people rewarding. Although dogs and humans have lived and worked side-by-side for hundreds of years, dogs will work much better for a high value reward. We don’t work for free and neither should our dogs!
4. Dogs should work for praise. Very similar to the previous myth is the idea that dogs find praise rewarding. Some dogs actually do find praise rewarding and it’s also possible to condition praise as a reinforcer but most dogs are not as eager to work for a pat on the head or a “good dog” than for a piece of sausage!
Food is just another tool in training and is most commonly used as a reinforcer in positive reinforcement. If you use the food reinforcer wisely, you’ll soon only be using it as a random reward once a new behaviour is trained. You’ll also be introducing alternative rewards like play and occasionally praise too if your dog responds to it.
To follow up or make an appointment or find out more information about Ringwood Dogs, Ashley Heath on the Dorset, Hampshire and New Forest border, please contact Isabelle Adams-Papé by clicking on the Contact Me tab.
I look forward to meeting you and working with your dogs.
Teaching Owners – Training Dogs. Happy dog training.