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The “Jackpot”

Author: Alison Spanner | Date: August 23, 2012

As we discuss in class, it is necessary to reward the dog with treats continuously in the early stages of learning.  However, once your dog has learned what to do, you can reduce the number of rewards given.  Scientific experiments have shown that animals will work harder if they are rewarded occasionally at random rather than constantly.

So once your pup has learned a verbal and hand cue, there is no need to reward with food for every response. The transition between rewarding constantly and variably should be done gradually–for example, reward 10 out of 10 times, then 8 out of 10 times, then 5 out of 10 times until you reach 2 out of 10 times.  Always remember you can still praise your pup, letting them know they did something right even if you don’t reward the behavior with a treat.

If your pup cannot anticipate when he will get a treat, he will work harder for the same amount of reward than if rewarded continuously.

Additionally, to increase the likelihood your pup will respond to your verbal or hand cue every time, offer the occasional “jackpot”.  A jackpot is a really good piece of food or an abundance of treats.  Once the pup realizes he may get jackpots, he will start to gamble on the outcome and respond to you “just in case” the next reward is a jackpot.  

 


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