What is a bribe? A bribe is something offered in hopes of getting what you want. The person (or dog) being bribed can then decide if it is worth his while. He may cooperate, he may not, and it depends on the perceived value of the bribe. Bribing always rewards inaction and inattention. If you have asked your dog to do something and he fails to do it, the worst thing you can do at that moment is to offer him something. This is paying your dog for refusing to listen. Quite quickly he will start to wait to see what is being offered before complying.

What is a lure? A lure is a toy or treat used to show the dog how to do a desired behavior. For example, a treat is held in front of the dog’s nose and then drawn up over his head. When his head goes up and his rear goes down, he is drawn into a sit. He then gets the treat.

When luring is used correctly, it is a quick and effective training method. However, you must fade the lure quickly.  If you continue to use the lure, the dog will become overly dependent on it and see the lure as part of the cue. To fade the lure, use the same hand signal, only without the lure in your hand, then reward from your other hand or somewhere else.

What is a reward? A reward is something given as a thank-you after the behavior has occurred. Tipping a waiter is a reward. Rewards increase the chance that the desired behavior will happen again—that waiter is likely to provide good service if you return to the restaurant.

I find that most people tend to use a lure for too long and then don’t reward often enough, which leads to a dog who wants proof that he is going to be paid. Try thinking of the process this way:

  • Luring: Only as many times as needed until the dog is easily performing the behavior.
  • Rewarding: So your dog becomes “fluent”, practice in a wide variety of locations and with distractions. Reward each correct response, but don’t show the reward in advance. Make sure to vary the reward and include real life rewards (walks, car rides etc.).
  • Raising criteria: Reward only the better responses—faster, straighter, in the presence of more difficult distractions etc. This teaches your dog to try harder.
  • Maintenance: Turn your dog into a gambler by “Jackpotting” excellent responses occasionally. Use a wide variety of rewards including real life rewards.

What if my dog doesn’t listen and I’m tempted to bribe?

First of all, try to avoid asking more of your dog than he is capable of doing at his current level of training. Prior to giving a command, ask yourself if it is reasonable to expect your dog to understand what you are asking.

For those times when your dog understands just fine but would rather do something else, you can either wait them out (if you don’t sit, I’m not putting your leash on) or physically assist (gently place the dog in a sit, or go get them if they didn’t come). Then in the future be careful not to get stuck in the same situation again, this is how dogs learn to ignore commands.