Using Distance as a Reward

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Hershey is also a reactive dog and is in the class with Leo (from the Leo Learns the Auto Watch post). Hershey is learning the auto watch too. Here we are using distance as the reward. In Leo Learns the Auto Watch we were using a food reward when he looked at his handler. Here we are rewarding with a treat and allowing Hershey to walk away. Distance is often a more effective reward than anything else. Hershey is uncomfortable around other dogs so walking him away from Leo is a huge motivator.

Here Hershey is almost a football field length away from Leo. As you can see from his body language he is very uncomfortable. Notice the hard stare, closed mouth, forward ears, and his body leaning forward. He also seems to be frozen in place with no body movement at all.
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Since we are too close to Leo, as indicated by Hershey’s body language, we add more distance. Always set your dog up to succeed. Now that we are at a comfortable distance for Hershey we begin walking towards Leo.
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Hershey is looking at Leo. His ears are forward and his tail is beginning to move upward. A vertical tail is also a body language signal to watch for. Hershey’s mouth is still open which is a good sign. His body is more relaxed than in the first photo. Here is where we are hoping for the auto watch. We want Hershey to notice Leo then look at his handler.
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When Hershey looks at his handler she clicks to mark the correct behavior. She then gives Hershey a food treat and turns to walk Hershey away from Leo. Hershey’s handler gives the treat in a strategic place. When Hershey turns to get the treat he is also turning away from Leo which makes it easier to get him to move away. So its a win win win. “Click”, turn, treat, move away. All of these are rewarding for Hershey. If your dog is unable to turn away from the trigger or ignoring the rewards then that means you are too close. Add distance and try again.
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See how relaxed Hershey is as he moves away from Leo? We repeat this many times. We want Hershey to understand that he has control of the situation (control=confidence). We also want seeing other dogs to be very positive for him.
We did this exercise many times. Hershey learned that when he saw Leo he should look at his handler and his handler would then reward with food and distance. This gave Hershey confidence.

So here is the initial meeting……….
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Here is Hershey approximately thirty minutes later. Much more relaxed and confident. Hershey is walking towards Leo and is much closer than where we first started. Can you see the difference in his body language?
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