Stick or Carrot? Dogs love both!

Go on then, throw it!
Go on then, throw it!

I went to see one of the pups from the last litter this week – gorgeous!  I am absolutely delighted with how she is turning out; beautiful conformation, lovely dark chocolate coat, and most importantly, really super temperament.  It was remarkable how like her mother she was – same shaped head, same naughty spots on her head and same general demeanour.  She came and gently licked around the bottom of my chin, which is exactly what her mum does.  Funny isn’t it?

I spent some of the time there inevitably sharing stories about all the mischief pups get up to and talking about management strategies.  Her family have obviously worked hard with her and she is an absolute credit to them.  But I was struck by their lack of experience, as she is the first dog they have had.  I remembered the challenges I had faced with my first puppy, Buzz, even though I had grown up with collies and taken on an 8 year-old from my mum a few years earlier.

One of the things I noticed was that the pup was being grabbed and taken to places, including into her crate.  This has made me think – should we use a carrot or a stick with our dogs (or children).  Do we want to make them do what we want, threatening punishment for failure to comply?  Or do we entice them to do it with a reward?

Enticing is hard.  Dogs do like carrot, or dog treats, or exciting, squeaky toys.  But sometimes whatever they are already doing is much more interesting.  It definitely takes practice to enable you to get a good, quick response to an instruction, rather than a disinterested sniff and a turned back.

Be rewarding!  There are four keys types of praise to use:

  • verbal praise
  • physical praise ie petting, stroking
  • food
  • play with toy

And as always, with dogs (and children) be patient!

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