Why you should praise your dog rather than give treats

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Rewarding with Praise with help increase the bond you already have with your dog

By Dog Blogger, Miss Moneypenny

More than anything, we dogs like to be praised.  Endorphins are released when you touch or pet us.

While I’m not one to pass on food treats (and maybe your dog is the same), it probably is not the best reward you can give us.  We’re pretty smart.  If you have us working for food, you may find that our motivation is gone as soon as the treat is.

On the other hand, rewarding with praise will help increase the bond you already have with your dog because a dog that is working for your praise is a dog that wants to please you.  And, another benefit is, by using praise as a reward for the desired behavior, you are more likely to increase the frequency and reliability of the particular behavior.

We want your praise; we want you to touch and pet us.

Using physical praise is a highly desired reward to us dogs.  Physical praise can take the form of petting, touching, and rubbing.  Sometimes it will be slow and soothing. Other times it may be fast and invigorating.   Knowing when to use each type of touching is very important and will also be based on the dog’s personality.  Some guidelines to using physical praise include:

  • Save this for after releasing your dog from a command – petting while in command may cause him to break the command.
  • Use this along with verbal praise.
  • Avoid mindless petting – petting your dog simply because it exists can devalue the praising during training – make us work for this reward.
  • Use slower, soothing praise with dogs that are timid, frightened, or over-excited; faster. You can use more enthusiastic praise as the dog begins to open up or with happy-go-lucky dogs.
  • Be aware of any areas in which the dog is sensitive to touch – touching these areas may scare the dog or cause it to even snap at you – if this happens, you may need to work on desensitizing your dog to touching in these areas.

Types of Physical Praise

When using physical praise, there are several different forms that you can use, and every dog has certain types of touching they prefer.  Find what works best for your dog and the situation.

  • The Stroke – A common movement where the flat of the hand glides down with slight pressure over our body
  • The Circular Rub – Using the flat of the hand on the front of the chest
  • The Pat – A drumming of the dog with the flat of the hand to various degrees of intensity on the dog’s body. The best place to pat me is on its withers of side and occasionally under the chest.  Never on top of the head.
  • The Scratch – Using the tips of your fingers under the chin, behind the ears, on the rear towards the tail, sometimes on the top of the head. A two-handed “massage” up and down the length of the body can help release tension.
  • The Grip – A kneading motion where the hand takes a gentle grip of hair, loose skin, and sometimes even muscle tissue. The shoulders, the chest, and even the base of the back respond to this movement.

Rewarding your dog without the use of food can often be a much easier, convenient, and effective way to instill, capture, and encourage desired behavior.  It is important to understand how we dogs learn and what motivates them before deciding how to reward us. A properly timed reward can boost your dog’s confidence and increase our trust in you.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs.  Set aside some time to receive Spike’s dog blogs by Acme Canine.



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