Are You Using the Right Reward?

Updated: Sep 2



"You can ONLY use treats!"

"You can ONLY use toys!"

"You can ONLY use verbal praise!"


All of these statements are 100% false. It is absolutely true that certain rewards work better than others with some dogs, but that doesn't mean that is your ONLY option or that your dog's preference cannot change over time.


"But you start your dogs on food!"


That is true. Dogs need food to survive. There is no inherent training necessary in getting a dog to actively seek out or hunt for food, if it is high-value enough.


"See! You only want to use food!"


...No.


If there is a dog who has an INSANE inherent toy-drive, they may absolutely seek and hunt for a toy instead. It all depends on the dog.


"Fine. But what if they are on odor? You only use food!"


I can see why you would think that, let me explain: most handlers do not know how to effectively use a toy with their dogs.


"WHAT?!"


Don't take this personally! Knowing how to make a toy come alive, to elicit that response to prey while not sending the dog over-the-top, or getting your hand accidentally bit, is an art. It is tricky. It is downright HARD!


Feeding a dog a treat is SO much easier and typically will not send the dog off the deep end arousal-wise.


Especially when human students are first being introduced to the concept of Scent Work, I have to make a choice as an instructor on how much I want to bombard them with! The main goal is to get them to better read their dog, which is challenging enough. So I often opt to have handlers use food rewards in the beginning and toys during their party celebrations after the entire search is done. Once they are more experienced, we will discuss whether it may be a good idea to move