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The Value of Rewards in Dog Training: Why It Matters

When it comes to training our dogs, not all rewards are created equal. The value of a reward, or how desirable it is to your dog, can significantly impact the effectiveness of your training sessions.

reward value hierarchy dog training

Understanding Reward Value in Dog Training

The value of a reward refers to how appealing or desirable it is to your dog. Just like humans have preferences for certain foods or activities, dogs have their favorites too.

High-Value Rewards

High-value rewards are treats or activities that your dog absolutely loves. These might include a special type of treat, a favorite toy, or playtime with a beloved human.

Low-Value Rewards

Low-value rewards are still liked by your dog but are not as exciting or enticing. These might include regular kibble or a pat on the head.

Why Reward Value Matters

The value of the reward you use can influence how quickly your dog learns a new behavior or command.


High-value rewards can increase motivation, especially when teaching complex or challenging behaviors. Think of it as offering a gourmet meal instead of a snack.


In environments with many distractions, high-value rewards can help keep your dog's attention on you and the task at hand.

Building Positive Associations

High-value rewards can be used to build positive associations with things your dog might find scary or unpleasant, like visits to the vet or grooming sessions.

How to Determine the Right Reward

Every dog is unique, and what might be a high-value reward for one dog might not be the same for another. Here's how to find the right rewards:


Try different treats, toys, and activities to see what your dog responds to best.


Watch your dog's reaction. A wagging tail, alert ears, and focused attention are signs of a high-value reward.

Mix It Up

Vary the rewards to keep training sessions exciting and engaging. Sometimes a game of fetch might be more motivating than a treat.

Pro Tip:

Your dog may find low value rewards sufficient in low-arousal or low-stimulation settings, such as in your living room. However, at the vet office, this low value reward will likely not be good enough to motivate good behavior or keep your dog's attention. The more "difficult" the environment, the higher value your rewards should be.

Conclusion: The Art of Rewarding

Understanding the value of rewards in dog training is like knowing the preferences of a friend. By recognizing what your dog loves and using it to motivate and encourage, you're not just training; you're building a relationship based on trust and understanding.

At We Speak Dog, we encourage dog owners to explore the world of rewards and find what works best for their individual dogs. Remember, training is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It's a journey filled with discovery, joy, and the satisfaction of seeing your dog thrive.


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