Slot Machine Dog Training

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on pinterest

“Argh!” groans the dog owner. “I don’t want to have to give Sparky a treat every single time he does something right. That seems really ineffective. He’s gonna get fat and I’m gonna go broke buying all these hot dogs.”

This dog owner is absolutely right. It is ineffective to treat your dog every time he does what you want. Not only is it unhealthy, but Sparky is liable to get bored quick.

When you are first training a new command, you will use a treat every time. But that’s just in the beginning. It’s like a soda machine. You put your money in, you get a soda. Every time. Its nice to get the soda, but there is no excitement in the whole process (unless you’re five years old, but I digress).

Eventually you will start rewarding Sparky only once in a while, and changing up the kind of reward you give him.You might give a treat one time, break out the tug toy the next, then scratch him behind the ears the next time. So when you’re working on “sits,” Sparky never knows which one of his sits will earn the prize or what kind of prize it will be (especially helpful when you’re out of the house and aren’t carrying treats). In dog training we call this a “variable schedule of reinforcement.” Humans have their own version of this.


They’re called slot machines.


People sit down and start feeding the machine their money. All in all, not much more exciting than feeding money into a soda machine. So what is it that makes people keep coming back, or even become addicted? It’s because every once in a while, they DO get rewarded. And, while the chances of it are slim, there is always the possibility of striking it rich. It really is the same principle that makes reward-based dog training so effective.

Check out these other posts:
Video series: How to Teach Your Dog Practically Anything
Video post: My Dog Won’t Work for Food!
14 Quick and Easy Ways to Keep Your Dog Occupied

Do you know what your dog is saying?

Understanding the subtle ways dogs communicate is a critical skill for dog owners. It can help with: choosing the right dog, solving training problems, and building a strong bond.

This free video course from our online academy will give you a basic, yet detailed, introduction to the wonderful world of canine body language and communication.

Join the crew:

Get notified when there’s new stuff, plus receive occasional exclusive content you won’t find on the blog. It’s free.

Follow us:

Our courses:

You might also like: