Say Thank You

man giving dog treats while out on a walk

Thanks for sticking around during a walk in the woods

If your kids bring you breakfast in bed it’s best not to respond, “I hope you didn’t leave me a mess in the kitchen to clean-up!” Or accept a gift and explain why it’s not something you’d ever use. You could I suppose but not if you want to see either of these examples to occur again. With people we can wait until the end of the day and tell someone how nice it was to get up in the morning and find the coffee made, but with dogs we need to be more immediate with our appreciation. 

In some cases our praise and positive attention is enough reinforcement to see a behavior repeated. But it may not be. Going in to work every week and being awarded a “special employee” plaque may be nice but it’s not likely going to get you to go back every day. You need the paycheck. For most dogs the easiest way to not only show your appreciation of their behavior, but to increase the chances you’ll see it again is by giving them a bit of food. It’s easy enough to do, so long as you’ve prepared yourself for it.

This week practice saying thank you to your dog. Look for behaviors you like, as simple or basic as they may seem. Want to be able to get your dog’s attention more easily? Give them a piece of cheese when they look at you. Want your dog to come when you call them? Slip them a piece a chicken when they run up and check-in with you at the dog park. Can you catch your dog looking out of the window and not barking at squirrels? Prepare yourself for the inevitability of success by having food reinforcers handy and available. No doubt your dog will thank you.

10 comments so far

  1. Christine Butcher on

    So true. I took my dog to a beginners training class, last night, as I felt that she could probably cope with the atmosphere, now, and we could push her socialisation ahead a little faster. We just sat in the corner and watched, and I was thrilled to see how well she coped. My goodness, though – the young dogs offered all sorts of behaviours that could have been noted and rewarded, yet the bars were set so high, by both their handlers and the trainer, that small triumphs were missed and quickly turned into failures. How negative it seemed, overall.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Especially when dogs are stressed or anxious we need to make sure we are making reasonable demands of them so we can reinforce at a high rate. Good observation in class.

  2. sara on

    What a great post! Must remember to put treats in all my pockets.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      And don’t forget to use them up or take them out!

  3. Buddy2Blogger on

    Reblogged this on Sherlockian's Blog.

  4. Kay Liestman on

    It also helps to have them in different rooms, especially when trying to de-sensitise to UPS trucks.

    • Debbie Jacobs on

      That is so right! Socially facilitated behaviors are easier to change when there is no social facilitation.

  5. on

    Positive reinforcement of good behaviors, no matter small they are, is certainly the key to making them doing it over and over again. Heck, I wouldn’t mind getting a little piece of chicken as a thank you every now and then! 😉

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