Praise and affection is an inevitable part of a dog’s life. After all, how could you not give your dog all the love in the world – they deserve it! Did you have a rough day at work? Did you just break up with an ex? Did your dog simply exist? Well then it’s probably time for some loving!
With that being said, however, there is a proper way to give your dog love, praise, and affection, and there is certainly a wrong way to do it. It is so important to make sure you are giving the proper amount of praise & affection and it is even more important to ensure you have the right timing for that praise and affection. Let’s go into timing a little bit more before anything else!
Properly Timed Affection & Reinforcement
We all know that dogs are creatures of habits. We all know that dogs do not easily forget when the value of the reinforcement is high. Have you ever seen a dog go crazy for a toy, you take it away, and they just sit there and stare in your general vicinity to bring it back? They do not forget when something has been adequately reinforced. You may be wondering – how does that relate to giving my dog pets and love?
We want to make sure that we are praising the good behaviors and not the bad ones. For example: do you want your dog to jump on people as they enter your home? Most likely not, so we want to make sure that we do not accidentally reinforce this behavior. If your dog jumps on your guests and they pet them while jumping, they are signaling to the dog that it is okay to jump. Over time, your dog will continue to jump on guests and strangers because it has been reinforced through affection (petting).
Rather than allowing your dog to jump on guests and letting them get pet, we suggest putting a leash on your dog as guests are coming into your home. Work on redirecting their attention and focus using the leash to give them something else to focus on. This could be a place command where your dog goes to lay down and settle in while guests are entering. If you can give your dog a treat every time they go to the place object, you will see a dramatic difference in behavior because it has been reinforced.
Levels of Praise
Every dog has different interests and not all dogs will value praise in the same manner. some dogs go absolutely nuts for physical affection, while some actually hate it. It is your job as their owner to figure out the levels of praise that resonate with your dog. There are so many different ways to praise your dog, such as food, verbal praise, physical affection, toys, etc. Once you figure out what motivates your dog, you can use that positive reinforcement for good.
You will need to create a tier list for your dog’s interests. Altering the level of reinforcement can help when working around higher levels of distractions, like when you are outside on a walk. The distractions come and go when you are outside, so you may need to vary your praise to become more valuable than your surroundings. Does your dog only like treats when inside? It is probably because you the treat is not valuable enough to overcome the distractions when outside. Vary your praise, increase its value, or try new ways to reinforce and encourage your dog.
Not every dog will find value in toys, treats, physical affection, and other forms of reinforcement. It is our job as owners to figure out what will motivate our dog and build that drive. Building food/toy drive can take a while, so you must be patient and consistently work at it to show them it’s true value. Don’t give up and make progress each day.
Once you have tapped into their drive, you will be able to show them how to work for that reward. Performing obedience commands in exchange for treats and kibble is an excellent way to begin building food drive. Dogs feel a sense of accomplishment and feel like they have earned it when they are working for the food. You may not see changes overnight in their drive, but do not give up and you will see a dramatic improvement!
Building drive for toys, food and affection is important so you can properly reward your dog for behaviors you want to reinforce. It is easy to accidentally mark and reinforce the wrong behaviors, so you do have to be cognizant of your timing! If you need help, we have a variety of services that can help you live a better life with your dog. If you are not sure what exactly you need, just fill out our contact form and we’d love to help!