Some dogs happily accept every toy their human brings home and will eat any treat with wild abandon; other dogs need a little more prodding to determine what makes them happy.
Watch your dog’s face when trying to decide if what you are offering is really a reward to your dog. If you see your dog’s eyes light up, their mouth open into that doggie smile’ or ears perk up; you know you are on the right track. On the other hand, if your dog turns their head or moves away, you may need to find a new way to reward your dog. It is not a reward nor is it motivating if your dog does not like it; no matter how much you think he or she should like it.
Praise In general, dogs like high pitched and happy verbal praise. However, if your dog is shy, loud voices can be scary. Play with the intonation in your voice, every dog is different. I have a client with a very fearful dog who LOVES low pitched praise. I have to purposely speak as low as possible to keep this sweet dog engaged in her training sessions and continue to build her confidence. Praise is an easy way to reinforce your dog’s good behavior, but it may not be enough in some situations. An energetic dog who likes to jump on guests may need a little more than a happy “good boy” to reinforce a calm “sit”.
Toys For some dogs, toys and play are the greatest joy in their tail wagging worlds. Save yourself time and money by taking your dog with you when you go toy shopping. Nearly all retail stores that cater to pets allow them to join you on shopping trips. Hold out a toy for your dog and watch his or her face. If you see excitement and delight, that is the toy for you. If not, continue shopping.
Once you get home, move the toy away from your dog to entice play. When you push a toy into your dog’s face to invite play, some dogs can find it obtrusive and withdraw. Dogs like to chase things so wiggle away and enjoy play time with your dog!
Treats There are so many treat options but soft and smelly tend to be the easiest to get dogs excited. Soft treats are MUCH easier to break up. It only takes a crumb to be enjoyable to dogs and the smellier treats tend to be more exciting. If you use small bits, you avoid adding too many calories to your dog’s diet and save money on treats! If your dog turns his or her nose up to even the premier treats like Salmon Paws or Dogswell, hot dogs or cheese are great to reward amazing behaviors. Use them in moderation and cut them up into tiny pieces to avoid an upset stomach. Vegetables or cheerios are also a great alternative if you are trying to maintain weight or help your dog shed a couple pounds. If your dog makes the happy face, you found the right treat!
Praise, toys and treats are wonderful rewards but your dog gets plenty of other great goodies every day. Cuddling on the couch, playing with other pets, walks and meals are amazing motivators of good behavior. Just be sure to give all of these when your dog is being good and you will keep your dog motivated for life!