What Type of Currency Does your Dog Use?by Dawn Bennett & Asha Gallacher on 01/07/12
Sometimes, but happily to say, not very often, a dog owner will ask, "Why do I have to give my dog a reward when I want him to do something? He should do it because I say so."
We reply by asking, "Do you like money? How motivated would you be to go to work all week for a pat on the back?" Just like us, dogs like to be paid for a job well done.
What is your dog's currency? Is it a specific food, toys, petting, chasing a ball, going outside, swimming, or maybe playing with another dog? All these rewards can be used to train your dog... you just have to find out what your dog will "work" for. Some dogs will turn their nose up at a piece of leftover chicken, but go berserk over a tennis ball. It's a matter of motivation, and it is up to us to find out what motivates our dogs. We like to call this process "audition time", and it's a lot of fun finding out what makes your dog go nuts!
Most dogs love food. It's important when using food that you keep the reward varied and that you don't use boring old milk bones. Do you prefer crackers or warm, freshly baked bread with creamy butter? The same applies for your dog. Just remember, save the really special treats for teaching a new or difficult cue. You don't want to use those extra special meatballs for a standard "sit" in the house with no distractions. That meatball would make a much better impression with your dog if he earned it for a Down Stay in the front yard when Mrs. Jones is walking past with her barking Labrador Retriever.
One last word on food rewards: once your dog can respond to a cue under a variety of different situations, you should cut back on food treats and give your dog a pat instead, or play a game of fetch. Keep your guessing on what his payout will be. That way, he will always be interested in working for you. Think of a coke machine vs. a slot machine... do you get a fluttering in your chest when you insert money into the coke machine? Probably not. But what about the slot machine? That anticipation is a powerful motivator and that's how you want your dog to feel when you are training with him.
Below are some ideas for treats. Remember you can use toys, affections, freedom or access to people, things or other dogs too. It's okay to use people food... really, it's Ok!
We can all learn from each other, and we would love to hear from you - post to this blog and share your dog's favorite treat!
Soft treats (like Zuke's)
Chicken, leftover steak, pot roast or roast pork
Ham, Deli Meats or Liverwurst
Chicken or Beef Livers
Stove Top or leftover bread
Cat Food, Cat Treats
Raw meat or vegetables
Recipe for Chicken Livers (dogs love them!)
1 package of fresh chicken livers
Boil chicken livers for 10 minutes
Drain in a colander and run under cold water
Lay out livers on baking pan and sprinkle with garlic powder
Bake at 350 degrees until brown (about 15 - 20 minutes)