My dog isn’t choosing the reward

This blog post will be based around figuring out why your dog makes the choices that they do. Obedience is a relationship that takes time, consistency and bonding to form. Until your puppy or dog is at this stage of relationship their choices will likely be based of which choice is the most rewarding one.

Ill use examples to help explain this:

Example A - A 2 year old Labrador loves playing with other dogs. They will normally choose delicious liver paste as a reward for recall around most dogs but have recently been struggling recalling away from other labradors. The play with the other labradors is more rewarding than the liver paste so the recall is unsuccessful

Example B - A 8 month old spaniel is struggling with refraining from sniffing whilst heeling for long periods. The reward of sniffing outweighs the reward of engaging in a heel.

In both of these situations you can increase the reward for the good behaviour (recall and heel) and practice these often. But you can also tackle the desire to sniff and play with other labradors directly by making sure your dog’s desires are satisfied and there are boundaries in place

Example A - In this situation you may set up regular plays with other labradors so they are satisfied, practice recall and release back into the play group. You may use a lead or heel cue whilst going around corners so your dog won’t charge towards unexpected labradors.

Example B - You may satisfy your dogs desire for sniffing through breaks from heel for ‘find it games’ and sniffing based enrichment. Doing short bursts of heel work and using your focus cue as a boundary to interrupt sniffing

In conclusion… to get your dog to choose to listen to you:

Decrease the intensity of the situation by reducing their freedom using a lead or increasing the distance from the situation

Satisfy your dogs desire for the thing they’re choosing e.g. dog play, sniffing, chasing

Use a marker to communicate exactly what your dog is doing right

Their choices can also be based on the reward of avoidance of fear or discomfort although I would highly advise to not use this style of training.

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