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What I love about reward based teaching for dogs

In a nutshell:

There is no real reason for the dog not to follow your suggestions because what you are offering is always the best choice for the dog.

I was reading something earlier about spoiled cues. You know: When you have said “come” to your dog hundreds of times but the dog does not really “come”..or “sit” “sit” “sit!’ “Sit!!” SIT!!” SIIITTT!!!!!!…oh well…not now. Those are spoiled cues.

Cosi and Petzi ALWAYS “sit” because they love it!

We tend to get very serious when the dog is learning “OBEDIENCE”. We think the dog is more likely to “listen” if we thunder a command as in “THOU SHALT SIT WHENST I COMMAND THEE TO SIT.”

So, the discussion I was reading turned towards replacement cues. And indeed the mood lightened up as people confessed to having used words like “bananas” instead of “come” and  someone actually taught one of her dogs “french fry” and her other dog  “ketchup” instead of the command that had no real meaning to the dog.

Yes, it is silly. But my point here is: Those words might immediately work  better because it is hard to “thunder” “KETCHUP!!” Damm it!

The invitation to follow the cue is already far more appealing to the dog and therefore the dog is much more likely to be curious, less afraid to try something, less afraid to guess wrong, mistakes are not PUNISHED.

Dogs learn through trial and error. If you reward good guesses and ignore guesses that were not successful the dog will repeat the rewarded behavior and have terrific fun. The dog will volunteer that behavior in the future because the dog ONLY has good associations with that particular game. The more important that game is to the human the more incredibly appealing the human should make it for the dog.

The dog does not have to know that coming to the human when called can be a life saving maneuver. As long as the dog thinks that “coming to you” is always more fun than pretty much anything else, that it has always paid off much more to come to you, than to chase a skateboard, then the dog will come to you despite distractions.

I doubt very much that the same dog would give up a chase because he knows that if he does not come he will get punished.



  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