Reward Your Dog

The how, what, where and why’s of rewarding your dog while training for the sport of agility.

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Reward Value – Using a Jackpot

Not all rewards are created equal. We can increase the effectiveness of our rewards by changing up our reward intensity. Diane & I always use “jackpot” rewards in our training to reinforce stellar performances. A jackpot reward is when you increase the value of your reward to mark your dog’s significant improvement on a skill or performs a desirable behavior. 

– You can give MORE treats – instead of 1, give 6!

– You can give BETTER treats – use steak instead of kibble.

– You can get excited – add verbal praise, clap and party with your dog.

– You can combine multiple rewards – give treats, pets and verbal praise.

Not every reward can be a jackpot, or it defeats the purpose. Use them wisely

Reward Placements

Where you reward during a skill drill or sequence can influence what skill is emphasized in your training. Before you toss your toy or hand over a cookie, consider what component of the skill or sequence you want to emphasize. For example, you’ll notice the reward placed in three different locations on the short sequence above. 

1. Reward away from handler.
This emphasizes independence and obstacle commitment for a specific skill (such as “out” in this sequence). With a placed toy or target, you can give your dog a destination to focus on.

2. Reward from the handler.
This emphasizes handler focus which can be beneficial for rewarding turns or front crosses

3. Reward ahead.
This emphasizes obstacle commitment this can desensitize the dog to a change in handler motion – like we would want for an end line or weaving ahead of the handler

Use your rewards intentionally and strategically to build the skills your dog needs.