Can You Over-Reward in Dog Agility
Is it possible to give your dog too much reward in you agility training? We say, no, as long as your rewards are on time and consistent. In fact, more trainers are finding the better and more frequent your reward system the more confident and motivated your dog becomes. This also increases the impact of withholding rewards for mistakes. But just how do you leverage your rewards for the highest impact?
First of all, you have to remember to keep your rewards on a scaling system especially when teaching your dog new concepts. And you have to take into account that not all dogs are food motivated. Some thrive on play or praise. Once you have your reward base in place you are ready to start a reward program that motivates your dog and builds their confidence with each sequence.
We stress the importance of staying positive and upbeat in your training, but it goes deeper than that. We also need to stay positive in our corrections. We do that by immediately asking our dog for a behavior they can do correctly after withholding a reward for a behavior they do incorrectly. For example, they miss a tunnel entry and you call your dog to you. When your dog comes to you they get a reward for correctly responding to the recall. You can then ask for a few more behaviors and reward before going back to the sequence you were working on.
We also stress the idea of keeping sessions short, which means breaking your courses down into lines and sequences and keeping the overall training session short. You can get a lot accomplished in under 10 minutes if you are rewarding an average of every 10-20 seconds. This gives you opportunity to reward more often during an entire course. Yes, you do need to run complete courses from time to time, but don’t get stuck running full courses all the time. The more you can reward, the more confident your dog gets. The more confident your dog gets, the faster they will run.
Dog agility really is about having fun and that is accomplished with loads of rewards, short positive sessions, and more praise than you think you need. Give your dog a good reason to come to work and they will work hard for you.