Learn to Earn: Easy everyday training without treats!
August 29, 2014
"Learn to Earn" is not a trick or a command, but rather a training technique to keep in mind during all interactions with your dog.
The simple principle here is that your dog has motivations, wants, favorite toys, favorite games and activities, all of which can be used along with treats to reward and encourage good behavior. While the clicker and a bag of treats are wonderful in formal sessions training specific tricks, it can be just as useful to require good behaviors throughout the day from your pup before giving him all of the other great things he'd like to have.
For example, most dogs love to go outside for a walk and will get excited to bolt out of the open door. It's perfect that he's motivated by the outdoors, but not appropriate for him to run out without your permission. A great way to teach him good manners without treats in this situation would be to teach him that the door will NOT open until he sits, lays down, or performs another desired behavior. As soon as he's completed the behavior, he is instantly rewarded by the opened door and released to go through.
Similarly, it's considered great manners for a dog to learn to sit and wait quietly as you're preparing his dinner. It's even better if he waits for your permission to go to the bowl once you've put it down. Once he's learned that you'd like him to do these things before you'll put the bowl down, he'll be happy to perform for the huge reward: dinner!
You can use Learn to Earn for other behaviors and rewards like "sit" before playing fetch, "down" before company comes in to play with him, "no pulling" before you'll allow him to sniff on a walk, etc. Not only does this technique reinforce good behavior daily and often, but it also reinforces a positive bond between dog and owner while teaching the dog that the best way to communicate with you is by paying close attention and behaving himself!