Your Dog’s Deepest Desire

Before you can begin to train your dog, you must first find out what your dog values most.

There are four primary reinforcements that you can train your dog with. These are:

1)      Food and treats

2)      Toys and play

3)      Verbal praise

4)      Physical touch.

Now, think about your dog’s behavior and analyze his excitement to each one of these primary reinforcements. Which one of these excites your dog the most? Rate them all on a scale of 1 to 10.

For example, here are my dog Onyx’s results:

1)      Food and treats – 10/10

2)      Toys and play – 5/10

3)      Verbal praise – 6/10

4)      Physical touch – 4/10.

Your results are probably going to be different from mine, and that’s perfectly okay! All this test does is tell you what you should be training your dog with. With my dog, Onyx, I would primarily use treats but would also use verbal praise as she values both.

Next, you need to dive a little deeper into this primary reinforcement. Within each group, there are sub-categories of reinforcements, and your dog is going to respond to each one differently.

Let’s take food and treats for example. This is a very big category that could include all sorts of foods such as kibble, broccoli and steak. It helps to be specific in what your dog values, because it tells you what you should be using to train your dog.

Make a list of what your dog values for each of the primary reinforcements. This can be anything from your dog’s favorite dog treat, to his favorite toy, a special word or tone of voice, or a special place that he likes to be touched.

For example, here are my dog Onyx’s results:

Food and Praise:

  1. Cooked meat like beef or chicken
  2. Hot-dog sausages
  3. Dry treats.

Toys and Play

  1. Long tug-toy made of fabric
  2. Empty water bottle
  3. Plush toy that squeaks.

Verbal Praise

  1. “Good girl!
  2. “Yeah!
  3. “Woo-hoo!

Physical Touch

  1. Gentle touch on side of body
  2. Massaging neck and ears
  3. Stroking shoulder blades.

Your list is not going to be the same as mine. Every dog is unique and your dog will value different things. I even had a dog on the discussion forum who valued peas and carrots more than meat. How about that!?

The positive reinforcement you choose for training your dog should ideally be consumed in less than five seconds. This is to allow you to practice numerous repetitions in a short amount of time.

Let’s say that you were to give your dog a cookie each time he did something right. Then your dog would spend 30 seconds or so eating the cookie and cleaning up the crumbs, plus he would get full after only five or six cookies. So a cookie is not ideal for training.

But if you were to train with pea-sized treats, then they would be eaten in less than two seconds and your dog wouldn’t even be full after five minutes of training.

I have one more tip for you! Create variety in your positive reinforcements so that your training sessions don’t become boring and predictable. Train your dog with chicken one day, sausages the next, and steak the following day.

You should now be ready to start training your dog! Have fun!