If you reward someone’s behavior when it is occurring, they are more likely to do that behavior again in the future. I wanted to give you some tips to get your dog to do the behaviors you want without always reaching for the treat bag.
Using your voice to reward your dog. I often ask dog handlers to use their voice in a happy tone so their dog knows they have done something right. Dogs perceive high pitched voices as invitations to come closer and engage, conversely, low tones are perceived as a warning or distance cues to our dogs. Avoid saying your dog’s name or even talking to your dog in a firm or scolding tone as this will make your dog ignore you in the future.
Using your body to reward your dog. Dogs primarily read body language so it is important that your body language and voice are saying the same thing. In the photo of me to the right, the dog sees an invitation to engage with me as I am crouched low, soft relaxed joints, clapping, open mouth, soft eyes and balanced weight distribution. Leaning forward would be more threatening.
Using your hands to reward your dog. Dogs who enjoy tactile touching love a great scratch in the right spot. I rewarded Heidi with a long scratch under her harness, she always dances with joy when I scratch her. I should mention that she has learned to receive this from me.
Using toys to reward for your dog. Dogs who enjoy playing fetch or tug are often willing to do a few behaviors for a fun game of tug. Be sure the reward is long enough for your dog, example. If you call your dog to you and engage in tug, be sure the reward of tugging last long enough to be considered rewarding for your dog. If you only tug for 10 seconds and then put the toy away, this may actually be a negative to your dog.
Practice these tips for just five minutes today and watch your dog engage with you longer and come to you faster! Using non food rewards will strengthen the bond with your dog and provide additional life enrichment fun for you both!