Using Play as a Reward for Good Behavior

Jackson an 18 month old a Black Mouth Cur, came to My Dogs Mind in April after being adopted a month prior. His owner was told about his "high-energy" by the adoption center but was instructed to continue giving him Benadryl® to help with that. Sad but true story.

His high energy was indeed something that needed to be addressed, as it was fueling frustration and anxiety while on leash. Jackson was lunging, barking and just plain looking scary towards other dogs. My Dogs Mind decided the best approach for Jackson was to go cold turkey on the meds and adopt a three pronged approach towards managing his energy level and subsequent displays of bad behavior. Using his love for play as motivation he began his road to recovery.

The first priority was more fun physical activity. He was quickly trained to run alongside a bicycle using a bike-tow-leash. The overall positive effects on Jackson's behavior were apparent by just providing him an ample amount of daily exercise. Part two was the introduction of obedience training, most importantly how to walk on leash. It is important for him to understand how to behave and what is expected by him before reintroducing temptations that previously led to a loss of control and aggression.

The recipe for the third and most crucial step in therapy, is providing and rewarding Jackson with a better outlet for his unfocused energy than bad behavior, when confronted with the stress of another dog. Play, specifically a game of "tug" proved a great activity for him. By rewarding Jackson when he ignores the temptation of other dogs with a good round of tug, we are able to offer him a better release for his energy and an alternative to the old way of dealing with it. The positive alternative to mayhem is the redirection of attention back towards his handler. With enough practice and tug as a reward, this refocusing will become a good clean habit.