Reward and Corrections for the Dog

If someone told you to sit down and be quiet while you were in the middle of your favorite pastime, you’d think, “No way!” But if the person offered you a million dollars to do it, you’d plop yourself in a chair faster than you could say, “Show me the money.” You can get your dog to obey just as readily but, luckily, it won’t cost as much. You’ll just need to know your dog’s preferred reward, be it a tidbit, a toy, or heartfelt, “Good boy!”

If food is the way to your dog’s heart, then use it for all it’s worth when teaching him good manners. To inspire your food-motivated dog to park himself immediately, for example, attract his attention with dog food. You won’t need a juicy steak – dry biscuits will work just as well if you’ve conditioned your dog to expect them.

The next time your dog has your left shoe for ransom, don’t give chase. Instead, put some kibble into a metal cup, call him, and then shake the container noisily. When he hears the clink, he’ll drop the shoe and fly to you in a flash, especially if he knows you’ll give him the yummies the minute he comes to you. “When both dog and owner can get what the want, it’s a win- win situation for everyone,” says Dr. Wright. “This elicits a happy mood while you’re training him.”

If food isn’t important to your dog, use interesting plaything to grab his attention. Rubber shapes that make squeaky noises tug or hug bears, rope tosses and even cardboard boxes and twigs are all tools of the trainer’s trade. Try everything to see what will get the job done best.
For the chewer who obeys your “Down” command, give him something he can sink his teeth into the moment you tell him to get up. After your dog listens to your “No” command instead of jumping on the toddler at the park, take out a toy you’ve hidden in your pocket and wave it in front of him. “If your dog loves to play ball, a quick bounce when he does what you want him to works wonders,” says Jill Yorey, training consultant at the society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Los Angeles.

Attention and Praise:
Other dogs care more about getting the attention of their owners and winning praise than they do about swallowing a tidbit or playing a game saying “What a good boy!” lets him know he’s done what you’ve asked. It makes passing up the bone inside the trash can or standing still while getting his nails clipped all worthwhile.

“You are praising your dog’s compliance with your wishes, so congratulate him as if it were his idea,” says Dr. Wright. Gentle petting or a little scratch in just the right spot – behind his ears, on the chest or on top of the basic of his tail – makes your dog want to go the distance for you.
“When it comes to training, you can never give your dog too much attention,” says Sandy Myers, behavior consultant and trainer in Naperville, Illinois.

The Fine Art of Good Correction:
With food, toys and kindness at your fingertips, dog training isn’t a mystery. You just need to anticipate what your dog will do and seize the moment when he does it. If you correct him straight away and keep your corrections shorts, precise and positive, your dog will know right away what he did wrong.

“A correction must be only enough to startle a dog, not make him frightened,” says Dr. Hunthausen. You should never use harsh techniques such as hitting, yelling or collar yanking. “These correction methods only damage he communication and respect you’ve tried so hard to build up between you and your dog,” says Myers.