I’m really lucky to work with people who love to reward their dogs for a job well done. Just simple stuff mostly – the usual Sits, Downs, Loose lead walking etc.
But I’ve noticed something recently that I think I ought to point out on behalf of your dog. And much as I hate to disillusion you, I’m going to because the dogs I’ve worked with have been very grateful when I’ve done the same with their owners.
Please STOP ruffling the top of their head and telling them ‘Good dog!’ when they’ve done something you like! They’d really rather you left it at the treat or toy instead 😉
And yes, I know – you’re going to tell me that your dog is different and that they LOVE being stroked on the head. Perhaps they do appreciate that, but I’m talking about the ruffling up the fur on the top of their head – in a similar irritating way as Great-Auntie Ethel might do to a small child. Recognise what I’m talking about now? 😉
The expression that I’ve read on many a dog’s face is “Urgh, yes, yes I know you’re pleased with me – can we get on now please?”. And I think it mostly hasn’t occurred to their well-meaning owners that it might be something they enjoy doing more than their dog does.
Reinforcement is something that is personal from dog to dog, just as it is from person to person. And we don’t get to dictate to our dogs what they should or shouldn’t enjoy.
Instead I encourage you to notice your dog’s reactions a bit more when you offer them something you intend to be rewarding. Develop better observation skills, because that’s the key to successful dog training just as it is to a deeper connection and relationship with your dog.
Today I’m grateful for Vodka my 9 month old Border Collie who has presented me with many new lessons about what reinforcement looks like for different individuals. Not having all the answers isn’t always a lot of fun, but when you figure them out – well it’s very satisfying indeed 🙂