Back to blog

Rethinking Reward Based Training

Rethinking Reward Based Training

NYC Dog Trainer | Dog Relations | Reward Based Training

When I walk around the city I see all these dogs trained with different approaches. Putting aside the sad fact that there are way too many pinch collars and choke chains around there is an encouraging number of dogs who are taught with reward based training… or let’s say: a version of reward based training.

Here is where I still see that there is a missing link of understanding at least in the way I see reward based training really working.

The easiest to explain this is by using the famous example of “sit”.

When I ask a dog owner if it is okay to give their dog a treat after a polite encounter with Zeldi so I can reward both dogs, the answer often is: Sure! But “HE HAS TO SIT FIRST. MAKE HIM SIT!”

That tells me that this human feels that the dog “must” earn the treat. Which is what they were told. Fair enough.

What they do not see is that if a dog has truly learned that sitting will get him the treat they will offer that behavior voluntarily and automatically as soon as they realize a reward is in play.

The dog understands that he can control his life with the “sit” behavior. So rather than understanding it as a compulsory exercise from the dog’s point of view it would be so much clearer if both human and dog could experience it as yet another opportunity to get access to something fun, rewarding and satisfying.

Instead of barking or pawing or jumping your dog will offer the behaviors that he knows will pay off. That works both ways: From the human point of view: a polite dog. From the dog’s point of view: knowing how to earn the things he craves!

It’s really that simple.


Elisabeth Weiss is a highly certified, experienced dog trainer in Manhattan, NYC. To learn more about dog training services, contact us by phone at (917) 783-1473 or our contact form.

  1. How adorable! Such manners for Nono and Sia. Very creative on the adults end.

    Comment by karen on June 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm
  2. That is totally hilarious! Great job and really fun to watch!

    Comment by Fran on June 10, 2011 at 10:59 pm
  3. Actually my friend and website designer Kendra Dixson was the person who sent me the video. So 99% of the credit goes to her!

    Comment by Elisabeth on June 11, 2011 at 7:55 am
  4. Hee hee, well a good friend of mine forwarded it to me so the list goes on. I think it is so cute and I’m amazed at how well the dogs are behaved, although you do see a little help from the human hands so they don’t dive their noses into their dish. lol

    Comment by Kendra Dixson on June 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm
  5. yes the dogs are great! I also liked HOW they helped the dogs by pretending it was a human “putting your chin in your hands” gesture. It is most entertaining.

    Comment by Elisabeth Weiss on June 11, 2011 at 3:24 pm