The Importance of a Paycheck

“Think of rewards as paychecks for your dog!”

Paws Abilities

Last week, we discussed the importance of generosity in training. This week, let’s talk about another key skill that makes professional trainers so successful: the rewards themselves.

There are lots of different ways that you can reward your dog. Let’s look at a couple different scenarios to see which might work the best.

Photo credit: Mr. T in DC, flickr Photo credit: Mr. T in DC, flickr

Let’s go back to our ping-ponging dog who’s learning to walk on a leash. Remember him? This guy was a real handful for his owner, only walking by her side long enough to earn a click and treat, then rushing out to the end of the leash before repeating the whole sequence again. Click – treat – rush – circle back – click – treat – rush —- you get the picture. How frustrating!

When I started working with this same dog, I kept him busy. I got his attention…

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We Are All Individuals!

Breed Specific Legislation categorises a dog as dangerous simply because of what breed it happens to be.  This is the same as if we were to say, for example, that all people with long blond hair should be put in prison.  A few people with long blond hair have indeed acted aggressively so it makes total sense to lock them all up!  Oh gosh, what am I saying?  I have long blond hair, better incarcerate me now, just in case!

One of the members of my family happens to be a gorgeous Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Where we live (Spain) he is categorised as a “Potentially Dangerous Dog”.  Strange wording in itself as surely all dogs are “potentially dangerous” if treated in the wrong way?  This Breed Specific Legislation affects him and all of us in many ways, none of which happen to be good.  Staffordshire Bull Terriers are not, however, affected by B.S.L. in the UK, unless the authorities decide that they are “pitbull type” (don’t get me started on that one!).  How can a breed of dog be dangerous in one country and not another?  Are Staffies born in Spain somehow more dangerous than those born in the U.K.?  But wait, it gets even more ludicrous. The list of potentially dangerous dogs in Spain includes the following breeds: American Pit Bull Terrier; Staffordshire Bull Terrier; American Staffordshire Terrier; Rottweiler; Dogo Argentino; Fila Brasileiro; Tosa Inu; Akita Inu.  Crazy enough in itself, but now here is the absolutely unbelievable bit… Different states/regions also include other breeds eg. some areas include the Doberman, others all Mastiff types and others the German Shepherd Dog.  If you live in my region then the Doberman is affected by B.S.L. but if you live 30 minutes away you’ll be safe as Dobermans aren’t on the list!  My beautiful German Shepherd girl isn’t considered “dangerous” where I live but we better not relocate to a different region as, if we were to do so, she would then become “dangerous”!  Legislation also includes any crosses of the above breeds and any dogs with the “right measurements” – width of chest, head, mouth; length of leg; weight; short hair…. Oh wow, guess I’m okay on the last point, with my long blond hair.  I better not cut it just in case!  Watch out though if you are a dog with short hair!  Thank goodness Tessa is a long-haired German Shepherd and not a short-haired one!  The same ludicrous situation is apparent all across the United States where, in some areas “pitbull type” dogs are legislated against and in others they aren’t!

Let’s go back a minute to my long blond hair and the fact that, based on the “logic” of B.S.L., I now need to be incarcerated just in case I act aggressively.  So, all people with long blond hair are exactly the same, aren’t we?  We all act in exactly the same way, have the same characters/personalities, the same thoughts and desires (to act aggressively)… We all definitely need to be “registered”, muzzled, kept on a short leash, locked up or maybe even given a lethal injection!  The general public would be much safer then, wouldn’t they?
Of course we aren’t all the same!  In fact, how ridiculous does it sound when you explain Breed Specific Legislation in this way?
Just as every person is an individual so is every dog! They have so many different character traits! They are also affected by the way in which they are cared for.  Mistreat any person or animal enough and eventually they will either give up, surrender, shut down… or they will try and protect themselves, fight back or even just lash out at the first person/animal they see!

Tessa and Jambo are definitely both individuals.  While out walking last night, I was thinking about how different they are in many ways. Tessa is extremely loving and gentle but doesn’t much like the company of strangers.  She really isn’t comfortable with dogs or people that she doesn’t know getting in her personal space.  She likes to have fun but anyone who doesn’t know her would probably say she is a bit “stand-off-ish”.  She’s just more at ease with those she knows.  She loves to go for rides in the car and long walks in the countryside.  She’s definitely not the life and soul of the party.  When we are out walking she really enjoys “reading the newspaper”, so much so that she has to read every single article and comment on it!  She likes to walk slowly and take everything in.  If she sees another dog or person in the distance then she prefers to go the other way and avoid them.  She’s quite elegant and ladylike in most ways but get too close and she might just decide to tell you to “get lost”!

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Jambo is the total opposite of Tessa.  He’s the life and soul of the party and wants to say hello to absolutely every person or dog he meets.  He gets so excited even just catching a glimpse of someone in the distance!  If they’re prepared to say hello then they better watch out!  He definitely doesn’t care about “personal space”.  I suppose you could say that he is very “touchy, feely”.  He loves to hug and kiss everyone!  Like Tessa, he loves to go for long car rides and walks but that’s where the similarity ends.  He has no time for “reading the paper”!  He’ll quickly check out the most interesting articles and very occasionally “comment” on them but then quickly has to move on to see what’s coming around the next corner.  Maybe there is something or someone up ahead.  He’s what I’d call a “full-on, loving, mischievous, little tomboy”.  He loves playing football, chasing around, rolling in the dirt and giving as many kisses as possible!

As you can see, they are both very different in many ways. They also have a lot of similarities though, many of which I believe are a result of the way we live as a family. They have both been taught using Positive Reinforcement. They have both been brought up in a loving home.  As a result, even though their personalities are quite different, they are both gentle and loving in their own ways. They are both totally different and yet they are both totally perfect!

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Is Jambo more “dangerous” because he is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier?  I’ll let you decide!