Too Busy to Train? Try "Real-Life" Rewards
Adapted from article by Laurie Luck, CPDT
Do you find that it’s difficult to make time for dog training? Trainers say we only need 10 minutes a day for practice but in our hectic lives even that can seem impossible. Real-Life Rewards might be the solution.
Real-Life Rewards is taking advantage of things that happen during a normal day that can also serve as a reward for good dog behavior. Example, your dog gets a meal at least once a day, right? A smart trainer will use that meal as a reward. Ask your dog to sitting & staying. Place his bowl on the floor and release him to eat with "OK". Using dinner as a reward is called a real life reward – it’s something that your dog likes that occurs during the course of a normal day. As a smart dog owner, you can use these to your advantage in your daily interactions with your dog.
Real-Life rewards have a number of time saving benefits and are really convenient. First, you don’t have to carry around treats or leashes and there’s no extra work involved for you. Another advantage of real-life rewards is that your dog is learning that he needs to listen all the time, not just during training. Your dog will be practicing obedience in the real life situations where it’s needed most.
On the next page are some examples of real life rewards that you might be able to use in your daily routine. You will come up with more in the future. (EXAMPLES ON NEXT PAGE)
Does your dog love to play tug? Is he crazy for a tennis ball or a squeaky toy? If he loves to play, use his favorite games as a reward for doing something good. For instance, call your dog and if he comes running, reward him with a 3 minute game of fetch or tug.
Going for a Ride
If getting in the car is the highlight of your dog’s day, use that to reward your patient dog. Ask your dog to “wait” as you open the car door. If he doesn’t move, reward him by letting him hop in the car. Then take him for a spin around the block.
Does your dog love to get on the sofa with you and cuddle or take a snooze. If you allow your dog on the furniture, first ask her for a “down”. If she does, reward her by inviting her up on the sofa with you.
Going for a Walk
For some dogs, going for a walk is the highlight of their day. Don’t waste the opportunity to use such a valuable reward! Ask for a few tricks from your dog before you leash him up. If he does them, say “Good dog!” and put him on his leash. Next, go to the door, ask for a “sit”, if he does, reward him by opening the door and releasing him to go with “OK”! Then head out for a nice walk.
Others might include the chance to sniff a fire hydrant, swimming, gnawing on a stuffed Kong, one-on-one time with you, playtime with another dog, off-leash freedom (in a safely enclosed area, of course!), running through the sprinkler, chasing a laser light in the dark, a long tummy rub, the list goes on and on… Your dog will tell you what he finds rewarding – use it!
Real life rewards are easy for you, fun for the dog. Real life rewards will help strengthen the relationship between you and your dog, as well as reinforce your position as leader. Watch your dog over the next week or so and take note of the things that your dog seems to really enjoy. Start using those as real life rewards and watch your dog’s behavior improve!