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We know the benefits of positive enforcement during training but how can we add some variety to our rewards?
There are many ways to reward your pet and they vary a great deal. These range from simple things such as petting the dog or scratching her ears to more elaborate treats such as home cooked gourmet treats. The rule regarding behavioral rewards is this:
Always be certain to provide the reward immediately after the desired behavior is carried out.
One great idea for a reward is play time with your pet.
Most dogs enjoy a brisk game of tug-o-war or chase. Some dogs will even show creativity and turn the game of chase into hide and seek, ducking behind bushes, trees or other obstacles and then timidly peeking out from their hiding places to see if you are following. Your pet enjoys spending time with you, so make this a reward that is used often as it greatly increases the bond between you and the animal.
Another great idea for rewarding your dog is time with a favorite toy.
One of my dogsí personal favorites is the Kong toy line. These are a great toy as they are very durable, dishwasher safe and are great for teaching your dog problem solving in themselves. This hard rubber toy is shaped like a pyramid of balls balanced one atop the other and hollow in the middle. The hollow part is where the problem solving skills come into play.
Many trainers will stuff these toys with all manner of goodies and treats before giving them to their pets. Depending on how tightly they are stuffed and what items you use, un-stuffing them can be an all day project for your pet. ( A side note: Stuffed Kong toys can be a bit messy, it is recommended that they be kept as an outdoor reward or on easily cleaned surfaces such as vinyl or tile floors. ) Would you like some recipe ideas for stuffed Kong toys that can also be used as treats in absence of the Kong toy?
To do this, hold the Kong toy upside down with the large hole at the top and fill it with small steak scraps or the thinly sliced beef used by Philly steak connoisseurs. Next we need to add approximately one ounce of cream cheese to the top of steak, thus sealing the steak inside of the toy with a tasty treat. You may also add vegetables, if your dog likes them.
For variations on this recipe consider using lean beef stew meat, chicken or turkey for a little venture off the beaten path.
Perhaps you and your dog are morning people. While Iím not going to join your clique, I will share with you an idea that my dogs like for breakfast, though it isnít usually served in this house until after one in the afternoon. Itís comprised of eggs, cheese and vegetables along with a large helping of love.
Again we invert the Kong toy and stuff the large opening with the foods. I usually start with scrambled eggs and a bit of whatever meat we might have had for breakfast such as sausage, ham or bacon. My dogs also like a few vegetables, such as carrots and peas. This mixture is then topped with cheese to hold all the ingredients together and melted slightly in the microwave. After micro waving, be certain to allow sufficient cooling time to make the treat safe for your pet.
For a bit of variety try different vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower, or perhaps add some mashed potatoes and gravy for a really messy treat.
During the dog days of summer what could be finer than a Puppy Popsicle?
These are quite easy to make. First, seal the small end of the Kong toy with some small treat such as a bit of meat like a hot dog or some Braunschweiger and then invert they toy. Support it inside a heavy coffee mug and fill it with chicken or beef broth and perhaps small tidbits of meat. Then place the whole thing in the freezer overnight and voila! You have a cold treat that will last all day long.
If we treat our pets well and reward them often, then they will be eager to make us happy by providing whatever behaviors precede our attention.
These treats and rewards do much to add to our relationships with our pets and the time spent in preparation of these morsels shows them we care.
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