The training of a dog essentially involves the dog’s genuine motivation to work with the person concerned and the available reinforcements, or rewards. Rewards are a broad and important concept, but, on the other hand, it is a sensitive area, which is of great importance in the cooperation between a dog and its owner. The Ask the Dog philosophy is based on the premise that the dog is the best expert in reinforcements, and the dog itself decides which factors it considers to be most rewarding. It is possible to build up a dog’s motivation by using different rewards, but there are also situations where it may be simply better to accept the dog’s own view of what it believes is rewarding.
By asking the dog about its preferences, one can find the real motivation of the dog without any sense of pressure. In addition, by asking, one can get to know their dog in a new way – the choice of rewards reveals the dog’s state of mind and its emotions, as well as possible environmental disturbances. Variations in a dog’s state of mind are not always visible outwardly, which complicates communication between the dog and its owner. Through simple reward games, a dog can learn to express its own opinions to a human more easily.
The choices of rewards also have a stimulus value, as a dog very rarely finds itself in a situation in which there is more than one right option to choose from. In fact, training is very much based on the fact that the dog has only one right option to take. This can sometimes lead to pressure being placed on the dog, especially if it does not know exactly what the desired course of action or correct response would be in a given situation. The reward selection game is a cognitive stimulus at its best – the risk of disappointment is very small, and the dog has several meaningful consequences to choose from.
For example, one could ask a dog what motivates it the most in a situation. The dog can be allowed to choose the reward to be used from among several others, or the dog could be allowed to choose the more preferred from between two options. Selections can be made with the aid of symbols or various items.
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