Monday, May 12, 2014

Snack Often

Positive reinforcement means rewards for desired behaviors. Those rewards can be praise and toys and play--and food treats, the most common. Whatever makes your pooch happy reinforces the desired behavior.

"Do I treat my dog forever?" clients ask. Most trainers will say to wean treats as behavior is learned--otherwise you're bribing your dog to sit when she knows 100 percent what the word means. Reward--not bribe.

But: once in a while surprising your dog with a treat keeps her on her tiny toes. You are a Vegas slot machine: you could deliver at any moment. Surprise! Walking quietly by the landscaper with the leaf blower deserves a sudden treat. Good doggie!

I always always carry treats on me. You just never know when they'll come in handy. My three dogs and I were having a nice walk this week, and Tanner suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. What was this 12-foot green man flailing around? Our local auto body had recently added an inflatable balloon man to their storefront. I'm not sure any of the dogs have ever seen one of these up close before, but only Tanner said, "What the heck?" So we stopped and I treated and said, "Look at that, Tan! Isn't that cool? Crazy, right? The tallest, greenest man ever. Here's another treat! You see a big guy and get tasty snacks. Not bad, right?" And on we went. Nipped that scary moment in the bud. (Even the other dogs got a lil treat at that sight.)

And a year ago my mother-in-law's dog was attacked on the street by a neighbor's dog. Just maybe if she had one more second's notice, she could have thrown a handful of treats at the Rottie, which just might have been more exciting than Skipper. Sometimes that trick can work and sometimes not. But I always always carry treats now just in case. (Skipper had a few stitches but otherwise turned out just fine.)