Opportunities to train the dog do not have to be limited to formal, scheduled training sessions. There are a myriad of opportunities to train effectively and efficiently for about thirty seconds or more and have the cumulative effects be very significant.

‘Quid pro quo’ is the concept of receiving something of value in return for giving something of value. Let me give you a few doggie examples:

  • When you return home, the dog is excited to see you and may be running to greet you. This is a wonderful time to say “come” and teach the word “come” in a very efficient manner. The reward is the greeting that you will give the dog: saying ‘hello’, petting and your mere presence are the rewards. You are developing positive connotations for the “come” command.
  • When you reach into the box of dog treats, you have the dog’s full attention. This is an excellent time to ask for a “sit”, a “down”, a “stand”, a “bark” and/or any command that you would like to have polished. The dog does not receive that treat unless it gives some work in return for the treat. It is a fair value exchange and not a free ride.
  • When the dog comes and nudges your hand for some attention, how does he/she earn that attention? Ask the dog to do something before giving it attention. It may be quick practice, but the attention becomes the reinforcement, the reward, for the dog. All these short training opportunities add up to a wonderful relationship with the dog. It shows the dog that with a bit of work for you, it can have what it wants. It is terrific for the dog’s self esteem: the dog is controlling its environment and is controlling the outcomes that it wants, by giving you back behaviour.
  • And the last opportunity I will use for an example is just before you put that bowl of dog food on the floor. The dog is hungry and the dog is attentive to your every motion. It is a wonderful time for the dog to earn its supper with a bit of work. The dog does what you ask and you verbally reinforce. You praise. In addition, the dog hits the ‘jackpot’, a full bowl of food. Is there a more powerful reinforcement? And it is earned.

The added benefit of this type of ‘agreement’ with your dog is that it subtly tells the dog who is the leader of the pack. You are granting the dog what it has earned and not merely serving the dog’s needs. And this distinction will not be lost upon the dog.

Catherine Forsythe
Director of Operations
FlyingHamster: http://flyinghamster.com/

[tag]dog, training, quid pro quo, attention, reward, pack leadership, praise[/tag]