One of the main reasons traditional dog trainers dislike modern reinforcement based methods is because they believe we’re bribing our dogs and they won’t do things for us without us having food on us.
The problem is, sometimes they’re right.
Anyone familiar with the phrase “Ooh what’s this, what have I got?”…. A phrase usually used in conjunction with a dog who isn’t doing as it’s asked 😉
If these words have slipped out of your mouth before, I’m afraid you’ve slipped into bribery and corruption
The reason we slip into bribery instead of using food/ toys/ activities as rewards is simple – we want our dogs to get it right and we know that they’re more likely to do something if there’s something in it for them.
The trouble with this line of thinking is that at some point it’s going to come unstuck – you’re not going to have something on you to use as bribery, and dogs aren’t stupid. My original family terriers taught me that – they could tell the note of desperation in my voice if I didn’t have anything
So how do you avoid bribing your dog for good behaviour?
Well you need to be aware of the answer to this question when you interact with your dog – “What was that reward for?”.
Did you give it after you’d waited half an hour for them to finish playing with their friends in the park and they’d finally stopped to see what you had on you which might be better instead?
Did you see a clear choice from your dog, or did you create that choice – e.g. did you see your dog running off and shout their recall cue and they returned to you, or did you call out ‘what’s this!’ and they turned to look at you to see what was on offer before returning to you?
Do you see the difference? Your dog does 😉