Every dog works for a paycheck
Most people are very stingy with their dogs’ paychecks. I think I tell people to increase the number of treats they are giving every single appointment. Those treats are your dogs paycheck. Are they working for minimum wage or are they receiving enough compensation for the work they do?
Maybe I think about this more often because I am a business owner, but the best way to keep your employees is to pay them what they are worth. I am not going to get into politics here but I want to make sure my employees are paid for the effort they put into their clients. You would probably not do your job for half of what you get paid today. Is your dog underpaid?
When you start a new job, you usually have a person who helps you with the day to day things. You ask lots of questions and get a lot of hand holding until you understand what your responsibilities are in your new role. All of those things are reinforcement for you. The “yes, that is correct” “Here we like to do things a different way, let me show you” are small reinforcing bits that give you information. Think about each of those moments as a click and treat. When your dog is learning a new behavior, or in a new environment, they need that constant click and treat until they are certain of the new way.
What are you paying your dog?
Obviously dogs don’t get paid in money, so what are you paying your dog? Are they always working for kibbles, or do you throw a piece of chicken at them? Have you moved to a difficult environment like the beach or the park, and now your dog won’t eat the kibbles? You are asking your dog to complete a huge project for a Burger King coupon. Every dog is going to find different things reinforcing. I have to bring out the cheese and hot dogs when I go into a new place with my dogs because I am asking them to put in more effort than I do in my living room.
This is usually where I get the “but he should just do it.” That is not how any breathing sentient being operates. Reinforcement drives behavior. Some dogs will do more for kibbles and air cookies, but some are going to require more to get the result you are looking for. Make sure your reinforcement matches your dog’s effort. The dog gets to decide the effort, not the human but that’s a blog for another day!
Take a look at the areas your training is falling apart, and look at where you can improve your reinforcement. Let us know what happens!