What's In Your Pet's Paycheck?
You’ve just interviewed for a new job with a new company. There apparently is no formal job description, and all the managers and staff speak French.
But the people seem nice and excited to see you, and you are optimistic that you will of course receive on-the-job training, so you come aboard.
Your initiation is somewhat perplexing due to your lack of skills in French. But you get along by being affable, reading everyone’s body language and responding well to hand gestures. All throughout your first day on the job, you receive warm hugs from everyone! By the end of the first week you collect a huge paycheck, and by the end of the first quarter….two bonus trips to the Grand Canyon with your friends! You think, wow this is a great place to work!
But by the end of several months, even though you have figured out some parts of your job very well, curiously, you are getting paid less. And you haven’t seen a bonus for more than ten days. By the end of six months, all training has ceased, the staff barely acknowledges your presence (and if they do, it seems only to criticize,) your manager’s expectations are now higher and – alarmingly - all paychecks and bonuses have completely disappeared.
Would you stay on the job?
What if you replaced the word ‘you’ in the above scenario with your dog’s name?
We all want our dogs to simply behave because we ask them to, just as every boss on the planet would like their employees to simply do the jobs they've been hired to do. Yet both you and your dog require more than just a warm hug at the end of the day to be motivated enough to comply with a job description.
If you want your puppy or dog to be obedient, then don’t stop the paychecks! Using treats to train initial behaviors is fantastic...but if you want to ultimately wean off using treats as paychecks, you must a) replace the treats with another type of desirable paycheck, and b) do it gradually over time, rather than cold turkey.
Move towards age appropriate and play rewards, such as going for a walk, or a good game of fetch. You can even spread rewards out more as your dog gets better, as long as you give bonuses along the way. But stopping rewards altogether will reduce your dog’s willingness to respond to you, no matter how much (s)he loves you.
Sure, some things in your dog’s life should be free – good nutrition, a warm home, proper socialization, exercise and training. But just as your boss has to figure out what kind of paycheck will keep you happy and on the job, the best dog owners on the planet figure out what their pet’s *favorite* things and activities are and use those doggie paychecks to motivate and reward their dogs for a job well done.