DOG PULLS - WHISTLE - STOP
people think that reward training is the modern method of
dog training. It's my belief that reward training predates
leash training. It is reasonable to believe that reward
training was fairly well developed by early humans. This
would be especially true for the priests of people who kept
animals as a form of worship.
In my library I have a book from the 1930s that describes
many modern reward training principles. This is before much
of the scientific research about operant conditioning was
published. This shows that people who live and work with
animals (especially dogs), often have a better feel for the
real world than the institutionalized authorities. As I have
been known to say, "if you know about dogs, you know about
When considering the historic significance of reward styles
of training, it's important to remember that the scientific
study and application of these systems is only about half as
old as leash training.
It has only been within the last 10 to 15 years that reward
training has come into vogue. One thing I've noticed about
many of the trainers who practice a reward style of training
is that they often talk quite poorly about trainers who use
a leash style of training. When I see this verbal
aggression, I always think that they are not as skilled at
practicing reinforcement as they are at preaching it.
People who only do reward training believe that part of the
answer to dog behavior, is the only answer. On the other
side are leash trainers who say reward training will not
work unless you always carry rewards with you. These
trainers sometimes talk poorly about reward training. They
simply don't know enough about reward training and/or just
don't believe in it. However, they're not hypocritical in
their views when they say bad things about reward training,
in that their training system is a more confrontational
Clicker training has become all the rage in recent years.
Again, in my library I found a book describing this
fashionable 1990s training fad in the very early 1960s.
Clicker training is very effective, especially for people
with poor verbal discipline.
I have used a clicker in training since the early to mid
80s. I first introduced a reward style of training into my
programs in the late 70s.
At that time, most of the dog trainers I knew said that
reward training would not work and not to use it. When I
worked for these people I just quit telling them how I
trained, and they would be surprised at the results that I
Usually reward training will incorporate food rewards or a
reward that is in some way associated with getting food
(this could be a toy). Reward training is the only way you
can train some complex types of behavior.
I think it would have been much more difficult to teach my
dog to ride his skateboard had I only used the leash and
collar. For this type of training, rewards were the most
effective approach. Reward training is also the most
effective way to teach many types of police and military
skills, such as scent detection, tracking, and criminal
Reward training can be effective in teaching obedience
commands. Basically we can think of all behaviors we bring
under command control, simply as units of behavior. If we
look at training from this point of view, we can see that
teaching a trick is the same as teaching an obedience
In reward training a lure is often used to get the dog into
the desired position. The purpose of the lure is to get the
dog to perform a desired behavior of the dog's own volition,
without any physical manipulation from the handler.
Getting the dog to perform a behavior without touching the
dog makes a lot of sense, especially when we consider that a
dog's initial reaction to touch is defensive. In general,
touch masks all other stimuli. This would mean in theory
that if you touch the dog it will be paying more attention
to the touch than to anything else, such as the command you
are using (discriminating stimuli).
Once the dog has performed the desired behavior, it is
rewarded or reinforced. Most reward training styles also
incorporate a conditioned reward of some type. Probably the
most common is a word such as "GOOD" and the now famous
To get past the complaint of the staunch leash trainers," no
reward, no behavior", we need to incorporate scheduling into
our reward training programs, as well as the conditioned
To make a reward trained dog reliable involves the same
thing as making a leash trained dog reliable. One of the
secrets to making a dog reliable is working the dog around
distractions and proper socialization.
Too many times reward trained dogs are only trained inside
the house or back yard when only the handler is present. On
the side of leash training, we see people working the dog
when they take it OUT on walks. To build in reliability,
work your dog inside the house, in the yard, on the street,
and in the community. It's a good idea to have friends come
to the house to help you train your dog. This will give you
a chance to train the dog with company.
The other thing that will help make a dog more reliable is
to teach the dog to pay attention. "If you have your dog's
attention you will have control of the dog." There are
techniques in both reward training and leash training that
will encourage the dog to pay attention to the handler.