Rewards- when, why, what!
It is very important to reward our pets for offering behavior that we like. Using rewards very liberally in the beginning that are valuable to your pet, sets the pet up to choose to offer that behavior more reliably and often, and continuing to reward them when you can after they have learned what you expect, with things that might not have as high of a value, will still encourage them to choose to offer those behaviors.
An often overlooked or unknown reason for the use of treats involves core emotions. Every living thing has "core" emotions hardwired in to help them to survive. The fear emotion helps you to run from danger. The rage emotion helps you to fight when you can't run, or need to protect. Lust helps with procreation, and nurture helps us form attachments to children, lovers, and other important things. I will do another post on the ways in which we might deprive our pets of their core emotions in a misguided effort to give them everything we can, eagerly engaging OUR core emotion of nurture, but for now, this post focuses on the seeking emotion, which is one of the most important core emotions and the most widely deprived for modern pets! The seeking emotion helps us find the basic resources we need for survival and some that help fulfill other emotions. Like mates for lust, and ways in which to protect, or nurture. This is the one that motivates us to build homes, provide food, water, and ranks up there in survival with the fear and rage to truly keep us alive. When we deprive our pets of the seeking emotion, they will find ways to engage it, because it MUST be engaged. This is the root of so much destructive behavior in pets, like digging and chewing, and opening cupboards and pulling all of the contents out! Having controlled and constructive ways in which to engage the brain to engage the seeking emotion naturally reduces the need for them to find ways to do that on their own.
The types of rewards you use are so very important. Many people underestimate the value. Consider that you are not as willing to work for lesser pay, or if you have no choice, you are probably not willing to work as hard for something that doesn’t pay off as well. Animals work for food or survival. Dogs, and even other pets, no longer have to work for survival, so it is our job as their caretakers to find ways to satisfy that emotion of seeking. It is natural to find the resources that are most rewarding and work harder to earn them! So find what makes your pet the happiest!
Types of rewards
Christi Chapman has over ten years of experience working with animals of all species in a variety of situations, from completely wild to rock solid domestic companions!