Phasing Out Rewards


Quantum Leaps

You will make four quantum leaps in training as you phase out hand-held training lures, and eventually all training rewards. Phasing out food lures is a simple matter — just put them in your pocket to be used as rewards for above-average responses. Phasing out food rewards is similarly simple — just empty your pockets of food and use something else as a reward.

Dog Jumping

…four quantum leaps in training

Phasing Out Food Lures

As your pup learns to watch the movement of your hand-held lure, your hand movements soon become effective hand signals. Hold your hand palm-upwards for the Sit signal, and palm-downwards for the Down signal. After a few repetitions, your puppy will begin to anticipate each hand lure signal on hearing the relevant verbal command. After that, the verbal request becomes the equivalent of a verbal lure, since it successfully prompts the desired response. Training lures are no longer necessary to entice your puppy into each position because a hand signal or verbal request is sufficient. Put the kibble in your pocket right now. Come on, all of it!
Repeat the Sit-Down-Sit-Stand-Down-Stand sequence with empty hands. However, make sure to follow each eager verbal request with a sweeping — nay flourishing — hand signal, just as if you were holding a lure. At the end of the sequence, praise your pup and reward them with a piece of kibble from your pocket.
See, you don’t need a food lure in your hand to get your dog to respond. Failure was all in your mind, just as the food is now all in your pocket.

This is the first quantum leap: Your puppy has learned that although you have no food in your hand, you can still magically materialise all sorts of goodies from your pocket. Now it’s time to begin fading out food rewards.

Reducing Food Rewards

Go back and use food as a lure for a quick test to see how many puppy-pushups (alternating sits and downs) your pup will do before they give up. Keep hold of that treat though. The longer you hold on to the lure, the quicker training will proceed. (In fact, that’s how we teach stays and “Off!”) Now you know how much your puppy is willing to work for the prospect of just one food reward. See which family members and friends can get the puppy to perform the most push-ups for a single food reward. By asking more for less, you have begun to gradually and progressively phase out food rewards in training.

Now repeat the Sit-Down-Sit-Stand-Down-Stand sequence with empty hands but with food rewards in your pocket. Don’t be in a hurry to stuff food rewards into your pup’s mouth. Instead, treat every food reward as if it were a gold medal. Only reward your pup immediately following extremely rapid, or exceptionally stylish responses.

This is a second quantum leap: Your puppy has learned that although you have food rewards in your pocket, they may not get one every time they respond correctly.

Phasing Out Food Rewards

Now it is time to empty your pockets and replace food rewards with praise, petting, toys, games, favourite activities, and other luxurious life rewards. This is the third quantum leap: Your puppy has learned that although you have no food rewards in your pocket, even better surprises may follow the desired behaviour. For example, when walking your puppy, stop and ask them to sit every 25 paces and as a reward say, “Let’s Go” (the walk continues). When in the park, call your puppy and ask them to sit every minute or so and as a reward say, “Go Play” (the play session resumes).

Phasing Out External Rewards

Eventually, it is no longer necessary to reward your dog to reinforce desirable behaviours. Rewarding your dog is always an option and always a wonderful thing to do, but your dog’s stellar behaviour is no longer dependent on expected rewards. Instead, your dog complies with your requests because they now want to.

After this fourth quantum leap, external rewards are no longer necessary, since your puppy’s good behaviours have become self-reinforcing. In a sense, each correct response becomes its reward. This is no different from people who enjoy reading, running, riding, playing games and sports, and dancing. Rewards are not necessary. Participation is its own reward.