Reward: a cookie, an excited toned “good boy”, a pat on the head, a fun game of tug o’ war. These are usually the things that come to mind when we think of rewards. However, what is rewarding to your dog is not always that cut and dry. Most people would be surprised of the not so obvious things that our dogs find rewarding.
The frantic screech and flailing arms of a person avoiding the razor sharp teeth of a puppy, the mere glance towards a dog screaming for attention, the person dragged to the urine covered fire hydrant, attempting to rip a dirty sock out of the playful puppies mouth, the shake of a cookie jar after an ignored recall.
These are some of the ways that we inadvertently reward our dogs for unacceptable behavior. Flailing arms and high pitched screeching can easily turn into a fun game of “cat and mouse”. Attention of any kind to the attention seeking dog can be rewarding. Pulling that dirty sock from the puppies mouth can easily turn into an amusing game of tug o’ war. The sound of that shaken cookie jar is rewarding the dog for ignoring his recall.
The list goes on and all dogs are different. One dogs reward could be a horrid punishment to another. For instance, the mere sight of a hose in the hands of a person could bring one dog running joyfully towards the stream of water blasting from the nozzle while sending another dog for the hills in fear.
Our dogs are learning 24/7 whether it be that ignoring his recall gets you to take out the cookie jar or that blasting back to you as fast as possible earns him a treat. We need to be mindful during our interactions with our dogs and always consider the behaviors that we may be unintentionally rewarding.