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Rated 5 Stars By Over 3,500 Pet Owners

How to Reward Your Dog's Mistakes

Dog Owner Hacks

HOW to Reward Your Dog's Mistakes

May 28, 2021

If you read any dog blog (including this one!), you’ve learned that rewarding good behavior is good and rewarding bad behavior is not so good. Well, here’s a curveball for you: There are times when your dog may deserve a reward for making a mistake. Dogs aren’t robots. They’ll screw up sometimes and compassion will be needed.


If your furry friend is misbehaving or disobeying commands, it is possible that the issue is the teacher, not the student. So before you do anything, stop and think about your training methods. Are you being consistent? Is there a communication problem? Is the dog acting out for a reason? Sometimes, the simplest tweak in training is all that is needed to get you and your buddy back on track.

If your dog continues to make mistakes after your self-assessment you should still continue to offer small rewards to correct the behavior. Here are three tips to help modify your dog’s behavior:


1. Reset expectations

It’s possible that your expectations were set a little too high – or your dog simply needs more time and training in order to achieve success. That’s OK. Some dogs learn faster than others. You don’t necessarily have to begin the entire training process over.

Instead, simply change the pace of teaching and allow your dog to catch up. Sometimes it helps if you break down the command into smaller parts. For example, leashing your dog and taking him or her for a neighborhood walk can be separated into multiple steps (attaching the leash to the collar, sitting by the door, not tugging, not barking, etc.) By training step-by-step, your dog will have a clearer understanding of what you want. With a little patience and kindness, your dog will eventually learn the desired behavior.



2. Keep your eye on the bigger prize

What is the ultimate goal for you and your furry friend?

For most of us, it is simply the shared unconditional love of a companion. If you have a show dog or a hunting dog, there are additional steps you’ll need to make. But for the rest of us, it’s important to focus on long-term behavior.

Your dog is hard-wired to please you. It may not seem that way at times (especially when you are struggling with training) but just remember that the two of you are a team. When your dog makes a mistake, let him or her know! But remember that withholding rewards does not always work. Teaching your dog is a process and you will most likely always be teaching.

3. Change up your reward system (it’s not always about food treats!)

If food treats are always your go-to reward for good behavior, don't be afraid to alter your system. Dogs have a keen sense of when they please humans. And doggy treats are an easy way to show approval.

But verbal praise, belly rubs, a favorite toy, and play time are all effective rewards for a job well done. If your dog does not obey a command or makes a mistake, you can forego the treat and give him another form of reward to help guide him. For example, if he or she does not sit on command, do not provide a treat. Instead, work with him or her and reward incremental progress with some alternatives.


Remember, there are no hard-and-fast rules for training a dog. It’s up to you to watch for improvement. Patience!


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