Functional rewards for dogs
What on earth is a functional reinforcer. This is so confusing.
A reinforcer is a reward. For example a treat, a toy or fuss. So what is a functional reinforcer? A functional reinforcer is a reward your dog chooses.
This reinforcer is the reinforcer of all reinforcers, think catnip and cats. Your dogs functional reinforcer could actually be catnip if they do scentwork!
Many guardians don’t succeed in the behaviours they want their dog to learn such as recall, because they haven’t yet discovered the power of a functional reinforcer.
Functional reinforcers for dogs refer to those that are directly related to the dog’s needs and encourage them to engage in natural and instinctive behaviours. These types of reinforcers are highly effective in strengthening the bond between the dog and guardian, as they help to build a deeper understanding and appreciation of the dog’s unique personality and needs.
Being mindful that all dogs are individuals and have individual needs and personalities. This means that no two dogs are going to find the same reward as valuable as perhaps your other dog(s) in the home or a friend’s dog.
Finding a functional reinforcer is super easy, you can play the which one game which is super popular amongst guardians https://youtu.be/hONBl1zm7NU
Observe your dogs body language as you offer them something, are they excited or are they just complying. Are they chasing a ball and interacting with it or are they just stood watching it?
Are they excited to sniff? Are they staying in one spot, frantically sniffing, finding it hard to come away and engage and keeping their nose to the ground.
Do they like to watch wildlife such as squirrels? Birds? Do they enjoy people watching?
Are they eager to go for a walk or eager to get back home?
Do they like to curl up and go to sleep or have snuggles or have a spot in the house they like to retreat to?
Do they love enrichment? Games? Training sessions?
Or do they love food? What kind of food? Have you tried to offer different kinds of food that aren’t a biscuit?
Honestly, when I asked clients if they had cheese, I would have a puzzled look and some would even ask if it was for me! Which is hilarious and we both end up laughing, but jokes aside some guardians simply aren’t aware that dogs can have some human foods. This blog may help you further to understand: The dogs bank account https://www.facebook.com/706073116264853/posts/1816697725202381/?sfnsn=mo
Here is a great old post about treats and rewards for dogs https://fb.watch/kLvfI8cZ8N/
Cookie pushers vs the limbic system blog https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=622977069624750&id=100057373879884&sfnsn=scwspmo
Some dogs may even find rest and relaxation a functional reinforcer, depending on their needs.
Every dog is as individual as humans are, we don’t all like the same things or find value in the same things. Find your dogs functional reinforcer to help you on your unique journey with your dog.
You can also check out the podcast I did on the coffee hour, all about play and functionalreinforcers! https://open.spotify.com/episode/7cf7MmB9srWaoZfasbuj6Y?si=KcqduPWoRlKi6yyi5eab5Q
For Miyagis Dog Training