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Lures, Bribes, and Rewards. What's the Difference?

What is a bribe?

A bribe is something offered in hopes of getting what you want. A good example is when you are trying to get your dog to come to you and you say, “I’ll give you treat” and you wave it in the air. Bribing always rewards inaction and inattention. If you have asked your dog to do something, like come, and he fails to do it, the worst thing you can do at that moment is offer him a treat. This is paying your dog for refusing to listen. Your dog will quickly start to wait and see what is being offered before listening. Don’t bribe!

What if my dog doesn’t listen and I’m tempted to bribe?

Try to avoid asking more of your dog than he can do at his current level of training. An example would be practicing come on a leash and expecting your dog to come off leash. Prior to giving a command, ask yourself if it is reasonable to expect your dog to understand what you are asking.

For those times when your dog understands but would rather do something else, you can wait them out (if you don’t sit, I’m not putting your leash on) or physically assist (gently place the dog into a sit or go get them if they didn’t come.) Then in the future be careful not to get stuck in the same situation again, this is how dogs learn to ignore commands.

What is a lure?

A lure is a toy or treat used to show the dog how to do a desired behavior also known as shaping. For example, a treat is held in front of the dog’s nose then drawn up over his head. When his head goes up and his rear goes down, he is drawn or lured into a sit. The dog then gets the treat. When luring is used correctly, it is quick and effective. However, its best to fade the lure quickly so the dog doesn’t become dependent on the lure. To fade the lure, use the same hand signal, only without the lure in your hand, then reward from your other hand.

What is a reward?

A reward is best described has a payment system. When you go to work, you get paid. You may not get paid at the end of the day, but you know there is a check waiting for you at the end of the week or every 2 weeks. Tipping is another example of a reward. You tip your waiter based on his/her performance.

Rewards increase the chance that the desired behavior will happen again. If you call your dog to you, he comes, and you give a high value reward, he is more likely to come to you.

I have noticed that many people bribe, don’t wean the lure quick enough, and under reward their dogs. This leads the dog to wanting to see proof he is going to get paid (being shown the treat) before doing a command.

Correct Training Process

Luring: Only needs to be done as many times as needed until the dog is easily performing the behavior. When teaching the down command, most dogs can be weaned off the lure in about 3 days, give or take.

Rewarding: “Pay the dog” every time the dog does a command on his own. The treats should always be hidden in a treat bag, your closed hand, or pocket. When he does a command you ask, you reward. Rewarding will not make your dog treat dependent when done correctly. Practice in a wide variety of locations and with distractions. Make sure to vary the reward and include real life rewards such as walks, car rides, fetch, etc.

Raising the Criteria: After your dog is becoming more fluent now it’s time to only reward the better responses. Beforehand we might reward on the 2nd or 3rd command, but now we will only reward on the 1st command. This teaches your dog to try harder.

Maintenance: Training is never complete after 1 class. You have only scratched the surface. If you have a puppy, you will spend the majority of the dog’s first TWO years training. If you have an adult dog, you will spend a good 6-12 months training consistently depending on goals. You must take training everywhere your dog goes. This includes home, the vet, park, friend/family house, stores, the list continues. Your dog needs to understand he must listen everywhere not only at home or inside the home. Maintenance checks are mandatory. If you notice your dog slacking on any command, practice that command more.

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