Some dogs happily accept every toy their human brings home and will
eat any treat with wild abandon; other dogs need a little more
prodding to determine what makes them happy. Watch your dog’s face
when trying to decide if what you are offering is really a reward to
your dog. If you see your dog’s eyes light up, their mouth open into
that “doggie smile” or ears perk up; you know you are on the right
track. On the other hand, if your dog turns their head or moves away,
you may need to find a new way to reward your dog. It is not a reward
nor is it motivating if your dog does not like it; no matter how much
you think he or she should like it.
In general, dogs like high pitched and happy verbal praise. However,
if your dog is shy, loud voices can be scary. Play with the
intonation in your voice, every dog is different. I have a client
with a very fearful dog who LOVES low pitched praise. I have to
purposely speak as low as possible to keep this sweet dog engaged in
her training sessions and continue to build her confidence. Praise is
an easy way to reinforce your dog’s good behavior, but it may not be
enough in some situations. An energetic dog who likes to jump on
guests may need a little more than a happy “good boy” to reinforce a
For some dogs, toys and play are the greatest joy in their tail
wagging worlds. Save yourself time and money by taking your dog with
you when you go toy shopping. Nearly all retail stores that cater to
pets allow them to join you on shopping trips. Hold out a toy for
your dog and watch his or her face. If you see excitement and
delight, that’s the toy for you. If not, continue shopping.
Once you get home, move the toy away from your dog to entice play.
When you push a toy into your dog’s face to invite play, some dogs can
find it obtrusive and withdraw. Dogs like to chase things so wiggle
away and enjoy play time with your dog!
There are so many treat options but soft and smelly tend to be the
easiest to get dogs excited. Soft treats are MUCH easier to break up.
It only takes a crumb to be enjoyable to dogs and the smellier treats
tend to be more exciting. If you use small bits, you avoid adding too
many calories to your dog’s diet and save money on treats! If your dog
turns his or her nose up to even the premier treats like Salmon Paws
or Dogswell, hot dogs or cheese are great to reward amazing behaviors.
Use them in moderation and cut them up into tiny pieces to avoid an
upset stomach. Vegetables or cheerios are also a great alternative if
you are trying to maintain weight or help your dog shed a couple
pounds. If your dog makes the happy face, you found the right treat!
Praise, toys and treats are wonderful rewards but your dog gets plenty of other great goodies every day. Cuddling on the couch, playing with
other pets, walks and meals are amazing motivators of good behavior.
Just be sure to give all of these when your dog is being good and you
will keep your dog motivated for life!
With the last name “Barker”, Brandi was destined to work with dogs! A lifelong animal lover; she formally began training dogs in 2001 when she completed her apprenticeship at the Anti-Cruelty Society. In the classroom, she honed her interpretation of canine body language, developed a toolbox of effective behavior modification techniques and fine-tuned her communication skills with dogs and people while only using reward-based techniques. Brandi completed her Master's degree at DePaul University in Developing Behavior Management Practices to Enhance Understanding in Human/Animal Relationships and is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Brandi's unique achievements gave her a solid foundation in animal learning theory, ethology and operant and classical conditioning. She uses this knowledge in conjunction with the active listening, relationship development and creative problem solving skills she acquired from a decade in the corporate world. Brandi is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and her philosophy incorporates attainable goals into every day life with a lot of patience, fairness and fun…for humans and dogs.