Using Food Rewards?
Why I use food as a reward in dog training & a tasty Liver Cake recipe
Food is a primary resource for dogs. Every day they are going to receive their meal allowance and we have two delivery options:
- Option A: At most, we ask them for a ‘sit’ before they are given a bowl full of potential reinforcers.
- Option B: We can use some of their daily ration as part of our training to transform our relationship.
Let's imagine the time you spend on your training as a jar. Every time that you reward a behaviour, you're putting a penny in that jar. Using high value food rewards such as chicken, cheese or pate is like making a deposit with ‘higher currency’ in the eyes of your dog.
We can also use the way that we deliver our food rewards to create different levels of excitement and motivate the dog: feed to their mouth, throw a treat for them to catch or chase, scatter feed to reward with a good sniff hunt appealing to their hunting instincts.
Now at the same time, the dog is making their own deposits. On our walks there are potential regards in the environment for the dog too: sniffing a good smell, eating something tasty (or yucky!) plus playing/chasing can be imagined that the dog is making a deposit in their own jar!
Imagine the dogs’ self-rewards and the rewards coming from you on a scale; by spending regular time and rewarding in your own training you are putting the balance in your favour. The fuller your training jar is, the more likely that behaviour is to happen again.
Think about what your dog’s reinforcement history looks like?!
Anything you reward will happen more often. So, on your walks if you start marking and rewarding behaviour you like, you will start to see dogs offering them more.
This will be because in the eyes of your dog, you are a reliable source of all things that they hold in esteem whereas the environment does not offer that reliable track record. For example, sometimes following a scent will result in a tasty snack. But not always.
Start building your reinforcement history today to see more of the behaviours that you want.
Tasty Liver Cake Recipe
- 1 pack of liver
- 5 heaped tsp self-raising flour
- 2 eggs
- Chop the liver into small pieces
- Mash the liver in a food processor
- Add flour and eggs, mix
- Put the blend in a greased or silicone tin
- Bake at 180 degrees for 30 minutes
- Remove & allow to cool
- Cut into pea sized squares