What You Have to Know about Reward Systems for Dog Training

Dog Training

What You Have to Know about Reward Systems for Dog Training

B.F. Skinner, a behavioral scientist, developed a set of universal principles in the 1950s. He discovered that animals will repeat pleasurable behaviors but will not repeat unpleasant behaviors.

Skinner demonstrated that by applying simple principles, humans can influence the behavior of animals. Rewarding an animal consistently increases the behaviors it offers, whereas punishing it decreases them. When it comes to dog training, these behavioral principles are effective. 

The Reward and Punishment System 

How “rewards” and “punishments” are implemented varies from dog to dog. A reward is anything that a dog enjoys. Food treats are frequently used as training rewards because there is almost always something irresistible for a dog, but the food is not our only option. As a reward, any item that a dog enjoys can be used. Permission to jump on the sofa, permission to run an agility course, permission to run around the yard, permission to jump in the lake, or permission to round up sheep. 

When an inexperienced dog handler hears the word “punishment,” they envision smacking, pinching, or kicking the dog, as well as jerking on the leash. It is not recommended to adhere to physical punishment because it puts the handler in danger and ruins the dog-handler relationship. Fortunately, physical punishment is not the only option. 

Keep in mind that behaviorists define “punishment” as any modification of behavior. Positive trainers, who pledge not to use pain, fear, force, or intimidation in their instruction, frequently use “punishment” (in the behavioral sense) to achieve their goals. She will turn away from him, depriving the dog of both her attention (eye contact and interaction) and the possibility of physical contact. The dog is pursuing these rewards by leaping up. As a result of this “punishment” of attention, treats, and petting for sitting quietly, the dog will eventually stop jumping. 

As a result, context is crucial in terms of behavior. 

Unintentional Education and Training

Training is the deliberate application of rewards and punishments to manage a dog’s behavior. It’s sometimes difficult to remember that dogs are always learning, whether we notice it or not. People are frequently perplexed as to why their dogs behave or do not behave in certain ways. An easy way to understand this is to learn that dogs will only do what is in their best interests. 

When it is pleasurable, tasty, or enjoyable, dogs engage in “inappropriate behavior.” Unacceptable behaviors like digging in the garbage, chasing cats, or sleeping on the couch are simply enjoyable for a dog! 

Even with disciplinary training, the dog’s pleasure can sometimes outweigh the owner’s “punishment.” A dog who enjoys chasing a cat over the backyard fence may not mind being punished for it. 

Sometimes the “punishment” is beneficial to the dog. A boisterous Labrador may be unaware that the yelling, hitting, and kicking are punishments in this case. This rough treatment is merely an invitation to take part in a fun (rewarding) game. 

Dog owners, unbeknownst to them, frequently punish appropriate behavior. This will inadvertently “train” your dog to stop displaying desired behaviors. 

Be Generous with Random Reinforcement

Having a variety of rewards allows you to train your dog without having an abundance of treats on hand all the time. When the dog consistently exhibits the new behavior, the trainer switches to variable reinforcement. Instead of clicking and rewarding the dog every time he performs the behavior, praise him first, then request and click again. Increase the randomness and duration of the reinforcement schedule gradually. 

Along with reinforcement, other rewards can be used to keep him motivated. After finishing his food, say “Good dog!” This can give your dogs the same warm fuzzy feeling as a food reward. They feel good when you give them verbal praise that shows you appreciate them.


Being a responsible dog owner means being able to control and love your dog at the same time. You can train them, spend time with them, and learn how to manage their behavior at the same time. Keep the “reward system” in mind in improving your relationship with your dog!

Dog Obedience Training Blogs is dedicated to giving every dog owner all the tips and tricks your dog will need, especially for house training a puppy. Check out our entries and learn more from our blog!

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