9.) Rewarding our dog

Now that we know how to motivate our dogs, let’s get to the rewarding part: The reward! One of the fundamental concepts behind positive training methods is that you want your dog to learn that it can get to a reward by voluntarily changing its behavior. When we see the desired behavior, we reward our dog. That sounds very simple, but there is a catch… Chances are that by the time we pull that piece of salami out of our pocket to feed it to our dog, he no longer realizes what he is rewarded for.

This can be avoided by “marking” the correct behavior exactly at the moment it is displayed. The marker becomes a signal for your dog that he did something right and that he is about to be rewarded for it. You can mark a correct behavior by saying a simple word (such as “yes”) or with a clicker, a mechanical device that makes a short, distinct “click” sound when pressed.

Now a disclaimer…   I have never used a clicker myself but many of today’s leading dog trainers swear by it. It is simple to use and always makes the same sound (unless of course you forget it on the kitchen table when you take your dog for a walk).

Whether you “click” or say “yes”, if you use your reward marker correctly, it will soon mean to your dog what the bells meant to Pavlov’s dogs something good is about to happen.

(Note: This post belongs to a series of multiple articles about the fundamentals of positive dog training.
Click here to go to the overview page that allows you to easily navigate to each article in this series.)

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