Sometimes you know something, but it takes a new situation to remind you of it, and to reinforce it.

Ruger’s rubber toy on the left, Rocco’s canvas paycheck on the right.

I forgot a critical element when I started my new dog Rocco on the detection of human remains. I started out rewarding Rocco with the same toy Ruger likes because, well, it was in my pack. But Ruger’s toy is rubber and sometimes hard to pull out of a pocket quicky. With a beginning dog, you want to reward behavior instantly. So for no other reason than to avoid ripping my pants I switched to a toy that was similar, but made of canvas not rubber. It simply came out of my pocket easier.

Ho-Lee-Cow. I couldn’t believe the difference in Rocco.

His play has become much more animated. He’s much more reluctant to give me back the toy. He’s a complete bull-in-a-china-shop when I toss it someplace, and he’s even nipped my fingers a couple times trying to get it back from me. (Just part of being a dog handler.)

My point is that if you’re not getting the behavior you want from your dog, part of the problem might be the reward. Virtually every dog owner is trying to get certain behaviors from their companion. You first need to make sure the dog knows what’s expected, but the other half is making it worth their while.

Consider the following:

  • Bigger version of the same toy (yes, it works).
  • Let the dog choose from a sack of toys.
  • Longer praise and play.
  • Really yummier treats (if food is your reward).

The little twerps are actually capitalists who would put Rockefeller to shame. They’ll do what you want, but the price has to be right.

Stay Found.

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