Rewarding Behavior – Reinforcing the Right Things

For those of you who haven’t met me, my name is Liz and I am one of the staff trainers at Wags. I recently was able to assist my first foundation agility class with one of our longtime instructors, Lisa McFarland, and it was a really eye-opening learning experience for me.

Real Value of Rewards

One of the most interesting things I learned via assisting was how important it is for us as instructors to help our students learn the real value of rewarding behavior.

The concept that is number one here at Wags is that we focus on learning to identify and reward your dog for appropriate behavior, and stop focusing on and being distracted by unwanted behavior.

Reinforcing the right things over and over makes them become automatic over time, and letting go of the things we feel our dog shouldn’t be doing will allow the “less-desirables” to fade away.

Our Dog Determines What Is Valuable

Also, we need to remember that our dog determines what is valuable! We may think crunchy biscuits are the greatest, but our dog may really prefer a soft liver treat. Or he may prefer to tug on a toy or pounce on a furry squeaky thing!

Ultimately it doesn’t matter what reward our dog will work for as long as we can identify ones that motivate him. We as trainers and owners need to be open to finding what excites our dog, and then once we do, be prepared to run with it!

Correction vs. Positive Reinforcement Training

One student in particular really stood out to me over the session. She joined us coming from a more traditional background, using corrections to train and not all that thrilled about giving her dog food rewards.

But, over the 6-week agility session, she has not only come to understand the “why” of positive reinforcement training, but she has begun to see its awesome effects on her dog. She was fortunate that her dog was already a willing participant. But now her dog is blossoming into an enthusiastic, eager-to-please partner which is so exciting to see!

Rewarding Behavior Training is Rewarding for Us!

The staff trainers at Wags train dogs not only because we like to hang out with them all day, but because learning to communicate with a dog is such an amazing experience. When we can share that experience with students and open up entirely new avenues for them, it makes it twice as rewarding for us as well!

Last night is the last class of this session for Level. I hope to see you in an RSM agility or obedience class soon!

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