Dog Blog

The Dog Blog is a community of ordinary dog lovers who have come together to discuss our extraordinary dogs. Each Monday, a new topic is introduced. If you've got an opinion, share it. If not, look for the current "anything goes" topic and introduce a discussion of your own. On Fridays, weigh in about your training questions and successes.
Your host: Mike Lewis is a little-dog nerd and the proud owner of Eddie and Jillian, a pair of Yorkies who think they're huskies, and Lucy, a sweet Chessie. R.I.P., Rusty. Contact mlewis@adn.com

Parks and Rec Committee approves fenced dog park - 1/10/2013 3:33 pm

AACCC Adoption of the week: Meet Scout - 1/9/2013 12:12 pm

Kitty and K9 Connection: Meet Nano - 1/4/2013 7:04 pm

What are your New Year's resolutions for your dogs? - 1/2/2013 4:29 pm

AACCC Adoption of the Week: Meet Rudy - 1/2/2013 4:14 pm

Take extra precaution with dogs on New Year's - 12/31/2012 11:58 am

Friday training talk -- what's up with your pack? - 12/28/2012 11:09 am

AACCC Adoption of the Week: Meet Chris K - 12/27/2012 12:27 pm

Does your dog have self-rewarding bad habits?

Self rewarding: I slept in a little too long for Lucy this morning, so she entertained herself by chewing up her bed.Self rewarding: I slept in a little too long for Lucy this morning, so she entertained herself by chewing up her bed.

Does your dog have any bad habits induced by self-rewards? Do you find those habits more difficult to break? Any secrets for doing so?

I stumbled on this idea in nosework class. A big part of nosework is to allow the dog to self-reward. You start by hiding a treat in a box. When they find it, they self-reward by eating the treat. Instructors insist that you don't praise the dog for finding the treat. The food is reward enough.

It was a difficult concept to grasp, but I've seen the results. My dogs LOVE the game of nosework more than any other game we play because they create their own rewards. It's all about them -- not about pleasing me.

Once I understood that, I can see how self-rewards can be detrimental to a dog's training as well. It starts by housetraining. They have to go, so they go where they are. Big self-reward. And once they start, it's a hard habit to break.

Lucy is a master self-rewarder. At home, she developed a liking for whatever falls out of the bird's cage -- or whatever she can reach between the bars (we have a big macaw). If we leave the door open to the bird's room -- or even fail to latch it tightly -- she'll sneak in there and gobble up whatever nasties she can find.

A firm "NO!" will get her out of the room, but she'll be back in there 30 seconds later if she can sneak in. I cannot break her of the habit. Our only hope is to remove the self-reward. NEVER leave the door open.

(Update) Last night, she evidently got bored. I was sleeping in, so she entertained herself by chewing up her bed (see above picture). I'm thinking of attacking that two ways: A longer walk in the evening and more chew toys left out at night.

So I'm curious: Are your dogs' most long-lasting bad habits the result of self-reward? Bonus points for examples. Triple bonus points for solutions!

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