Skip to content
Home » Blog » Mastering the Game: Understanding Bribes, Lures, and Rewards in Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

Mastering the Game: Understanding Bribes, Lures, and Rewards in Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

This week I’m here to dish out some information on a topic that might seem like alphabet soup at first: bribes, lures, and rewards. No, we’re not talking about negotiating with your furry friend over a juicy steak (although that would be very entertaining). Instead, we’re diving into the fascinating world of bribes, lures and rewards.

So, picture this: you’ve got your pupper and you’re ready to teach them some new skills. You’ve got a pocket full of food and a heart full of determination. But wait, before you start tossing snacks left and right, let’s break down what exactly these terms mean in the world of dog training.

Bribes: The Tempting Treats

Alright, let’s get one thing straight – bribes are not the gold standard of training tactics. Imagine waving a delicious snack in front of Fido’s nose, hoping they’ll do your bidding. Fido might perform a double pike with a twist but have they learned anything?

In the world of positive reinforcement training, our aim is to rarely bribe. Bribing is like trying to convince your buddy to help you move by promising them pizza – it might work in the short term, but it’s not exactly building a solid foundation for a lasting relationship. Instead, we want to move towards using rewards strategically to encourage desired behaviours.

If Fido knows that you have food on your person (wearing a treat pouch or in your pocket) or within reach (on the bench or in a container nearby), then you’re bribing them to perform rather than helping them learn. Sure, when you first start out with your pupper then you need to have food close to hand to your training bubble (more on that in a future blog) to keep up a rapid rate of reinforcement – I call it popcorn feeding, a term that I stole from my friend, Jai (I’ve usually finished the popcorn before the movie starts), but your aim should be to phase out bribes very quickly.

Lures: Guiding the Way

Now, lures are where the magic starts to happen. Think of them as your doggie’s GPS – they guide them towards the right path. With a lure, you’re using food to show Fido what you want them to do. Want them to sit? Hold food above their nose and slowly move it back over their head – voila, you’ve got a sitting pup!

But here’s the thing with lures – they’re like training wheels on a bike. You use them to help Fido understand what you’re asking for, but you want to fade them out quickly and start using verbal or hand cues. After all, you don’t want to be stuck waving food in front of your dog’s face every time you ask them to do something!

Rewards: The Cherry on Top

Last but certainly not least, we’ve got rewards. Ah, rewards – the sweet, sweet icing on the cake of dog training. These are the food, pets, praise, or playtime that Fido gets after they’ve nailed a behaviour. It’s like telling your pup, “Hey, you aced that spin! Here’s a treat and a belly rub to celebrate!”

Rewards are crucial because they reinforce good behaviour and strengthen the bond between you and your furry friend. Plus, who doesn’t love seeing that tail wagging furiously in excitement?

Putting It All Together

Now that we’ve cracked the code on bribes, lures, and rewards, it’s time to put our newfound knowledge into action! Cue the music – we’re about to embark on a journey of canine enlightenment.

Let’s use Leg Weaves as an example:

Step 1- (Luring) – Begin by having some of your dog’s food in each hand and have them practice following your hands, rewarding with single pieces of food as your dog successfully follows. You may need to start by putting your hand with the food directly at their nose.

Step 2 (Luring) – Stand with your legs slightly apart, so that there’s enough room for your dog to go between your legs from front to back. Step forward with your right foot and with food in your right hand lower your hand under your right leg and lure your dog through your legs from front to back and then around your right leg. Say your marker word or use your marker sign and give your dog the food as their nose is level with your knee. Repeat again on the left side.

Step 3 (Luring) – Repeat using both legs so your dog weaves through both of your legs in a figure 8 pattern.

Step 4 (Reward) – Without food in your hand repeat Step 3 and reward your dog with a piece of food after a few repetitions.

Step 5 (Reward) – Without food in your hand add in your verbal or sign cue. I say “Legs”, some people say “Weave”. My sign cue for this is my leg bending and I point to the knee of the leg I’m going to start with (usually my right as that’s my preferred side). Once your dog has completed a few repetitions then go and get them a reward, It doesn’t have to be food. It could be a game of tug or anything else your dog finds rewarding. Stan Lee actually finds Leg Weaves themselves rewarding so he takes the joy from doing them as his reward.

Step 6 (Reward) – Ask your dog for some leg weaves and reward them when they have successfully completed a few repetitions. Remember that if Fido doesn’t understand what you want them to do then you have to go back to a step that they can do. You also have to go back to the beginning so Fido can relearn it if you change the environment and/or the level of distraction. A quick reminder will have them weaving like a pro in no time because they understand the game.

It’s all about refining those verbal or visual cues. Sure, Fido might be a pro at following your hand with a treat glued to it, but will they do what you ask without the promise of a tasty morsel dangling in front of their nose? That’s the real test!

So, there you have it – the lowdown on bribes, lures, and rewards in positive reinforcement dog training. Remember, training should be fun for both you and your pup, so don’t be afraid to get creative and throw in some laughs along the way. After all, isn’t that what having a Furkid is all about?

Game On! Let’s Play!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *