When working with any dog, rewards are a key component of training. When working with fearful dogs high value rewards become even more important for their role in helping to change how your dog feels about a given situation, person, place or thing. The idea that dogs need to learn their place as a subordinate in a social group, based on comparisons with wolf packs has been shown to be incorrect. The use of force, threats or pain with any dog is not recommended and potentially disastrous when used with dogs who are suffering from fear based behavior challenges. Their brains are already very good at feeling bad! The last thing we want to do is contribute to that.
For most dogs food treats are a valued reward, though play and praise can also be used as rewards. Whichever reward you choose to use (and it may be all of them), it is really up to your dog to decide which is going to work the best. You might want your dog to behave a certain way just because you said so, but you need to give that attitude up. You might have success with a dog that is not fearful working that way, but chances are slim with a fearful dog.
What is a high value reward? Any reward that your dog thinks twice about declining, or even better, can’t pass up. Think about it this way-if you’re on a diet and someone offers you a nice saltine cracker, you probably will find it easy to stick to your diet. But if someone offered you chocolate chip cookie, fresh from the oven, the chips soft and gooey, chances are better that you’ll accept it. A scared dog is often unable or unwilling to eat, so your treats need to be exceptional.
If you are concerned about calories remember that there are no rules about dogs needing to eat out of bowls. They can get their daily caloric needs met by using healthy treats. And the sooner a dog can be taken out for walks and play with us, the more calories they’ll end up burning.
Below a LIST OF TREATS that was shared by owners of scared dogs. Don’t be afraid to experiment to find out what your dog really loves!
Dried lamb lungs
Cubes of cheese
Canned cheese (this is great because it needs no refrigeration, put a can in each room)
Boiled, roasted or dried chicken
Kitty treats or cat food
Hotdogs– prepare by cutting them in half lengthwise, then in very thin slices crossways, put them on a paper towel and nuke them in the microwave about a minute–more or less–you’re looking for a kind of leathery texture, though crispy is okay, too. Blot with another paper towel to remove excess grease.
Chicken liver– boil the livers and then cut them up into small pieces and put on a greased cookie sheet in a low oven until crunchy. Refrigerate unused pieces. You can do the same for other meats and organs.
Cheerios-put a couple of jerky sticks or slim-jims in the box to let the cereal absorb the scent. These are great when you need lots of small bits for rapid rewarding.