How to reward

How and when should you be rewarding your dog?

  • The click or/and the Yes command marker should happen right at the time your dog is performing the correct/desired behaviour or is making the correct choice.
  • To start with, the reward should arrive very quickly after the click. It does not have to be exactly at the same time as the marker, there can be a second or two of delay. With time, a longer delay can be used between the marker and reward.
  • To give value to a behaviour/object/position/zone always give the reward in the area/object/ zone or position you would like to reinforce. For example, reward a sit behaviour whilst the dog is sitting, do not reward it once it has stood up again.

Push and Reward anywhere

With time when your puppy has a strong value for the pot that you have been using for “Push”, you will find that you no longer need to reinforce the behaviour in the pot. You will be able to reward anywhere. Be careful to make the transition to rewarding anywhere slowly. Occasionally still reward in the pot so your puppy still finds value in doing the behaviour, but now start rewarding anywhere around the pot.

  1. Ask your puppy to push the pot.
  2. Throw the reward in any direction but not too far from the pot. Your puppy will go and take the treat.
  3. Ask your puppy to push the pot again. It should now return and push the bottom of the pot with its nose.
  4. Occasionally reward in the pot or your puppy will not see the value of pushing the pot anymore.
  5. Be patient. With time you will no longer need to reward in the pot.

Note: your puppy should not hesitate to go and push the pot.

Reward Nothing

Yes, you read correctly, I am advising you to Reward for Nothing!

Whilst with the clicker you are rewarding your puppy for specific behaviours you want to reinforce; you are usually promoting active behaviours. Usually, clicker training is not teaching your puppy to remain calm.

We often forget in our training to reward calmness, although it is a “skill” that we often would like our puppies to develop for certain circumstances. This is the reason why it can be useful to start rewarding your puppy for just remaining calm.

Rewarding your puppy for being calm can help develop self-control and the ability to switch from active to relaxed behaviours.

To reward calmness, you also need to make your delivery of a treat calm; the delivery of the treat should be as much a non-event as possible.

When you notice your puppy being calm or relaxed:

  • Deliver a treat slowly and calmly without a word to or any eye contact with your puppy.
  • Move away slowly. Hopefully, your puppy will return in his calm state.
  • Do not use the clicker as your puppy may be associating the sound of the clicker with active working mode

Try to avoid anticipation from your puppy. This is not a game as such, you don’t want your puppy to know when or from where the treat is going to come.  Just pick an opportunity when you notice that your puppy is calm and relaxed to give your puppy a treat. Your puppy will start to associate calmness with something good.

The next video is one of the nicest examples I captured of “Reward Nothing”. I taught my niece this game with Mehwi who was wary of children. I gave her a few treats in a pot to use for this game and explained that she needed to keep calm around him so he would not be scared.

Within a few days Mehwi and my niece were inseparable, and I managed to capture my niece’s interpretation of the game. It is a perfect example.