There are many different trainers out there from many different backgrounds that will all have an opinion on what is the right way and the wrong way to train a dog. Add in a dog with behavioral problems, and it could become an all out brawl over different methods, tools, and equipment. The short answer I could give you is never, however, the long answer is a lot more detailed.
If you are obedience training your dog with us then we have you reward continuously in the beginning. Every time the dog gets something right we mark and reward them to let them know it was the right thing to do. (If you don’t know what marking is, don’t worry) After a dog shows us they are fluent at a particular behavior we move on to what is known as variable reinforcement. Your dog will no longer get rewarded every time they perform a behavior, but at completely random times. Maybe it will be the 3rd time, maybe the 7th, or maybe the very 1st time. Your dog never knows, but the anticipation of it will build more excitement for it in his head.
This is what we utilize for training obedience commands. Using a marker system and high-value rewards we create very fun, happy, quick responses in dogs to commands in specific settings. When first teaching your dog a command you mark and reward every single time. If the dog does something particularly well then you turn it into a “reward event” where you basically have a 30 second party for your dog.
Your dog will have come to enjoy this particular behavior by the time they are fluent in it, and that is when you can make it a variable reward schedule. Instead of rewarding your dog every time they perform the desired behavior you completely randomize it so they never know when they might or might not get the reward. This can make your dog want to try even harder to earn it.
Now we utilize slightly different methods for dogs with behavioral issues.
Your dog does things for one of two reasons.
Reason #1 – To Feel Good
This could be anything from getting a treat, a toy, relieving boredom by chewing on something, rolling in the grass, etc.
Reason #2 – To Not Feel Bad
This could be anything from avoiding a choke collar correction, hot pavement, another dog’s teeth, etc.
It is silly to believe your dog will do things because they love you. It is also silly to believe your dog will do things because you love them. While I know first hand the incredible bond dogs and humans have, when it comes to training you need to get these ideas out of your head. Your dog does what he does for two reasons, either it feels good or it helps avoid something that feels bad. That’s it. That’s really all there is to dog training. Which technique you need to utilize is where it starts to get tricky. You need to know your dog’s personality and what you are really trying to accomplish.
If you are just looking for some obedience skills then there’s really no reason to employ Reason #2, just stick with a variable reward schedule. However, if you are looking at a dog with behavioral problems then we often have to combine the two.