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Dog Training: Rewarding VS Bribing

Decades of research and studies have shown that using rewards is a key ingredient in the success of dog training. Behaviors that are rewarded are likely to continue, while behaviors that are punished willare likely and eventually to be extinguished. This is basic operant conditioning, and decades of research have shown that, when done correctly, it effectively teaches a dog what choices to make.

Some dogs do things because they are inherently and internally rewarding for them. However, most dogs are undeniably motivated when they are rewarded externally by material things. With this, it is important to ask: What is a reward and what is a bribe? What is the difference between rewarding and bribing?

Rewarding is when a dog does a trick or an obedience behavior and then following it with something that it likes, such as a treat or a toy. With this, the dog is being rewarded for doing the right thing or for making the right decision, and may thus increase the likelihood of the dog repeating that particular trick or obedience behavior. On the other hand, bribing is when a dog is shown something that it likes first, every time to get it to do some tricks or obedience behavior. If the dog does not do the trick or obedience behavior unless you show or lure it with the treat, then there might be something wrong with the dog training. The dog probably was bribed, instead of rewarded, in training.

What you should do, then, is to lessen the use of reward as the dog training progresses and as the dog continually becomes more consistent in learning the tricks and obedience behaviors. First, reward the dog’s behavior every time it correctly does something, then switching it up to just rewarding every other time and eventually during random times. It is also important to couple material rewards with verbal and body language praises, to make the dog feel more important and valued.

It is extremely important to take some necessary steps to prevent rewarding turning into bribing. Otherwise, you will be left with a dog who obeys and follows only when there is a treat or a toy, or anything it likes. The reward should only be used as a guide, especially in the early stages of dog training. Also, it is crucial that the reward should be consistently and right away be given after the wanted behavior, so the dog will associate the reward to the particular trick or obedience behavior.

As early as possible, as soon as the dog consistently does the trick or obedience behavior correctly, slowly take out the material reward. One of the biggest mistakes in dog training is relying so much on rewarding that it turns into bribing.
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