I should say the journey is the reward for me. The dogs probably don’t see it that way.
A couple of months ago, when Freya and I first started having our training difficulties, one of the suggestions I got was to switch off more between food, toy, activity, and praise rewards. It’s good that I looked into having more reward options in my toolbox, since I also need to know what both dogs consider to be high-value rewards for Susan Garrett’s “The Five Minute Formula to a Brilliant Recall” online course that we’ve just started.
Freya is very food-motivated, so admittedly I was getting stuck in a rut with food rewards. I really hadn’t put much time into experimenting with toy, activity, and praise rewards until then. I found out that Freya’s favorite toy to play with by herself is not her favorite toy for playing with me. And neither of those toys is the one she’ll bring to Dan to play with him. I expected her to enjoy tugging more; maybe it’s just me she doesn’t like to tug with.
Axel is also very food-motivated. He likes a larger variety of toys than Freya does, and definitely responds to them. The problem with Axel and toys is that he is very interested in taking them away from the human, especially if the human is me. If the toy doesn’t have a handle or rope attached, I have no prayer of holding onto it. So I have never used toys much for training Axel.
This reminds me of a Heidi story. Heidi was ball crazy, a great catcher, and a natural retriever. Dan taught her all kinds of catch and chase games. “Heidi Go Long” was always cute. He’d tell her to “go long” and she’d lead out, he’d throw her a mini football, and she’d catch it over her shoulder. We’ve never gotten any of the Rottweilers who came after her to do that.
But as ball crazy as she was, Heidi would not play ball with me. I throw like a girl, and Heidi just did not like that. Even if I threw the ball, she’d bring it back to Dan. If he wasn’t there, she’d go and play with it by herself. If he was not home, or didn’t come outside after a while, she’d eventually bring it back to me. The look on her face made it very clear that I was a last resort. I miss her and that disdainful look so much.
The reward of choice at the moment for both dogs seems to be SPAM, with cheddar and mozzarella string cheese following close behind.
(NaBloPoMo | August ’10: 1 of 31)