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Are You Bribing Your Dog?

Many people worry they are bribing their dog during training. Let’s dissect that. What is the difference between a bribe and a paycheck? A bribe is dishonest. A paycheck is a result of hard work. (So by definition, you can’t technically bribe a dog unless they understand dishonesty.) But let’s say that’s still the word to use in this context of not having a dog that listens unless they see a treat.

There is a method called lure and reward. It is essentially the interview process if you will. Communicating with the dog in a way they understand to say, “This is the job, and this is what it pays.” Because no one accepts a job before discussing pay, incentives, and benefits. In other words, establishing the motivation for performing said job.

So, this method is used when teaching a dog a new behavior. Or when changing the criteria of the behavior (back to the anthropomorphic analogy, this would be similar to getting a promotion or being given more work responsibilities and you renegotiating your pay). It involves you placing a treat on the dog’s nose and moving in such a way that their body moves into the desired position. This phase of training has to be progressed past. I personally don’t condition any verbal cues during the luring process. And anytime I have to drop my criteria and fall back on lure and reward, I also drop the verbal cue.

After the motivation has been created and the rules of the job have been clearly communicated, then we switch to a very strict and specific structure: cue, behavior, mark, offer the reward.

However, what I see most people do is grab a reward, cue, behavior, mark, deliver the reward. This means that seeing or being aware of the treat becomes part of the process. If your dog needs to see the treat before engaging in the cued behavior, then they haven’t graduated beyond the lure and reward method and the behavior isn’t “trained”. Or it may need to be re-trained with the correct structure.

Now let me be very straightforward, this is human error. You trained your dog to need to see the treat first in this situation. But don’t despair, you can fix it. I encourage you to seek the help of a trainer who can give you feedback on your mechanics and communication.

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