A common mistake the pet parents make is asking for their dog to do behaviors and then not following it up with a reward. When this is done, it can result in a lower response rate when the cue is given in the future. The reason why dogs respond to cues is because they’ve learned that when the cue is said, and then they do the behavior, it leads to something they like. This is what is referred to as the “ABC’s.” (Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence.) When using rewards to train, a dog will build a positive association with the cue. They hear it and because of the sequence, they get excited and generally perform quickly. When the reward is removed, the positive association starts to drift away and the the response time starts to dwindle.
When using rewards to train, a dog will build a positive association with the cue.
If you want to keep your dog’s responses quick and sharp in day to day life, only ask for behaviors when you need them to happen and when you’re prepared to provide a reward. A reward doesn’t always have to be food. Dogs can be motivated by lots of different things. If there is something clearly motivating your dog in that moment, it’s likely you can use that as the reward. For example, if your dog is excited to greet a guest, you can ask your dog to sit and once the behavior happens, the reward can be getting attention from the guest. Attention isn’t always good enough to reward behaviors, but in a greeting context it likely is.
A reward doesn’t always have to be food. Dogs can be motivated by lots of different things.
It's common for us pet parents to look at the behaviors we’ve taught as something our dog now “knows.” When we have this outlook, we often start expecting responses without rewarding the behavior. When this happens, responses slow down and frustration increases for both dog and human. It really just gets worse and worse from there. Don’t let all your hard work and practice start to drift away. Maintain what you’ve taught by providing rewards for the behaviors you’re asking for.