Get to know your dog. Think about what motivates them in any given moment and use this knowledge to shape their behaviour. This is called a life reward.
If you are consistent at using life rewards to develop skills you will find that your dog will simply offer you these skills before you have even asked for them. Imagine that you are walking with your dog, they see another dog in the distance and instead of bolting off, your dog looks at you and begins to heel. Joy of joys! Nothing will fill you with more love and pride for your dog than this.
A life reward can be anything from being let off lead, going for a walk, or interacting with other dogs. The point is that you recognise what your dog wants and ask them to do something in return for this. You will not need toys or food for life rewards, instead the reward comes when you allow your dog to have what they want. Life rewards create a win-win situation.
Life rewards should only be used once your dog has learned the given skill you require. Often lifestyle rewards are given in situations when your dog is excited at the prospect of the reward. For example, if your dog has a tendency to jump around on the lead, ask them to sit and focus on you and your dog’s reward will become the release to go and play. However, your dog needs to know how to sit and focus first. Practice in low distracting areas and work up to situations where your dog becomes more excited.
Once you teach your dog the basics of sit, come and heel you will find that you can use life rewards to maintain and improve these skills. Life rewards are not about learning a skill, it is about maintaining a skill with a strong reward. It will give you excellent control over your dog in settings that can be distracting and teaches your dog to focus on you… ‘Hello, remember me? I’m the one you can’t get enough of at home.”
Your dog’s skill level will improve remarkably because you will be starting to work your dog when they are energised and driven. How many requests does your dog make of you each day? Driven dogs learn quickly. Use your dogs drive for other dogs, going on a walk and running free as a learning opportunity.
Life rewards give you many opportunities for developing skills, every time you see your dog is driven make them do something for you before you allow them access to this reward. Training this way is very convenient, you do not need to be shovelling food into your dog, or distracting them with a toy, simply capitalise on the natural rewards you come across in day-to-day living.
Using life rewards as a way of developing skills means that you will be truly working as a partnership. You will have recognised what your dog loves, they give you something, you give something back. In return, you will have a dog that you can be proud to take anywhere.