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.