What Makes a Reward Rewarding?

This is a fantastic article by Kay Laurence about rewards.  Although written about dogs all of what she writes is very applicable to horses.  Enjoy !

S.M.A.A.R.T. Horse Company

What Makes a Reward Rewarding?

Kay Laurence's picture

By Kay Laurence on 10/01/2011

“Reward your dog”

We’ve heard this many, many times in many formats. It takes a lot of experience to get the best from a reward—where the reward delivers everything the dog needs in order to offer the behavior again and again, with passion.

good dog food dish

Often delivery of a reward is not enough; many other factors influence the effect of the reward. Back in “olden times,” class instructors were perpetually yelling “praise your dog.” It seemed to be the hardest challenge for many folk to praise the dog in a way that was actually rewarding for that dog.

We grow up with the illusion that to say “good dog” is sufficient, and that the dog will understand immediately that the task was carried out correctly, even when said through gritted teeth. You really mean “good dog.” Yeah. It sounds simple, but poor delivery can make the reward more trouble than its value, and can have a backlash effect on the training and learning process.

Remember that a reward is only effective if the receiver of the reward finds it rewarding. Run down this reward checklist and make sure that, for the dog you are training this minute, the reward is doing the appropriate job.

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