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Al's Dog Training Tips

Reward Placement

Howdy friends! It’s Al the Dog Trainer. Welcome to Al’s Dog Training Tips! Today’s topic is “reward placement.”

So each and every Sunday, I go out with a group of people and we practice for sport protection work which is designed for a sport that I compete in. One of the lucky things I get to do is coach, and one of the members wanted me to take a look at the way that her dog heels with her. Now, the heeling that we do in the sport is much different than the heeling that people do whenever they’re walking with their dog. Even though they are related, it is much more. It’s a very fancy kind of walking the dog does and it’s also scored for its aesthetics. 

One of the issues that my fellow club member was running into is that when she’s heeling, her dog is bumping into her quite a bit. I took a look to see how they were going about it, and as I watched them, I was really looking for where the reward was going to come from.  The reason why this is important when you’re doing anything competitive with a dog where precision matters, the dog is going to begin to anticipate where the reward comes from.

My fellow club member was heeling her dog on the left-hand side and she was using a ball in her right hand to reward the dog. She actually had a really nice technique and the dog was heeling beautifully.  Then, when she was in the middle of a heel, she would tell the dog “yes” and then out of her right hand would come the ball.  At that moment in time, the dog would then begin to come over the front of her and try to get at the ball. Then what ends up happening because she does this on a regular basis, is the dog begins to anticipate when the reward is going to come. Because of that, he will then start moving in the direction prematurely because of the anticipation.

For those of you guys who are looking to actually clean up the way your dog moves with you or any particular thing, you want to take a look at how you are placing your reward.  What I tend to coach most people on, is when we’re working on a leash walking, I keep any food or toys on my left hip and the dog is on the left-hand side. Then, when I come to a halt and the dog sits by my side, then the reward is produced over the top of their head, and this makes for a very nice picture. Now, you do have to be pretty consistent. There’s a lot of small details that you can miss when you’re doing that, but the better you get at hammering that particular nail, the better the dog is going to get it while giving you this very precise type of heeling that you’re looking for. 

Now again, this doesn’t have to be used specifically for heeling. Maybe it’s just that you don’t necessarily like a particular way that your dog is doing it, but they’re getting it right more or less. Take a look at your reward placement to make sure that you’re not sending any unintentional misinformation to your dog. 

If anybody needs any help, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can text me at 832-734-5189 

Happy training, have a great day!

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