Knowing which high value reinforcers your dog will work for will make your training journey easier. You’ll want to learn what your dog enjoys so we can use that to pay them for good behavior. If they find what you offer unsuitable or even aversive they will disengage and may not re-engage upon future request.  Food is an effective tool for reinforcing good behavior but other opportunities exist, as well.  Spend time getting to know what your dog likes so that you can reward effectively, especially in distracting environments.  Real life rewards like playing or providing services like opening doors for them are also good!  Good trainers give their dogs what they want upon receipt of good behavior, within reason.  

Cheese and meat are often effective high value reinforcers in high distraction environments and we’ll know if the distractions are too intense because your dog may not eat at all.  While owners often attempt to reinforce their dogs with petting many dogs find this aversive, particularly in distracting contexts.  It’s important to know what your dog likes and dislikes so that we can use these effectively during the training program.


Mix your dog’s standard dry food with a small amount of broth, enough to coat all the kibble without becoming soggy.  Allow the kibble to soften approximately 3-4 hours, or overnight.  Save time by mixing a gallon bag of ‘training kibble’ and keeping it in the freezer for later use.  Add cut meat or cheese that has been cut into pea size pieces.  Regular softened kibble will generally be sufficient when working around your home but if necessary use your high value rewards.

Common High Value Rewards:

  • Chicken or Steak
  • Cheese
  • Freeze Dried Liver
  • Ziwi Peak Training Rewards
  • Vital Essentials Training Nibs
  • WonderNuggets

Prepare a ‘sampler’ tray of various treats.  Include such items as pea sized pieces of hotdogs, cheese, dry kibble, cooked chicken, and several types of training treats.  Then rank the items that your dog enjoyed from least to greatest and share below.


Your trainer will suggest hand feeding your dog.  This means delivering your dog’s regular meal and any high value reinforcers you’ve mixed in during a training set-up in addition to utilizing puzzle feeders and enrichment toys.  Ditch the food bowl!  Because you will be using your dog’s ration during training the food bowl becomes obsolete.  Continuing to utilize the food bowl for meals will make it more likely that you and your dog will slip back into old routines.  Hand feeding your dog will also help you hold yourself accountable to the spirit of the training program.

In order to bring about new habits in your dog, you must first adopt new habits in yourself. You may not have to feed your dog their meals by hand indefinitely but you’ll certainly want to commit for the 30-90 days that it often takes to form new habits.  From that point on it is highly recommended that you continue to utilize daily enrichment activities and training upkeep as needed to keep your dog from regressing back to their former way of behaving. 


Often owners think they are rewarding their dogs when in fact they are doing something the dog finds unpleasant. Your dog may not consider petting and touching to be a high value reinforcer like you think it is. If you dog doesn’t appreciated what you’re offering they will indicate by moving away from your and refusing to return.  Be mindful that your dog may not appreciate being touched when outside his home environment.  Touching your dog in social circumstances could actually teach your dog not to obey if they find the experience aversive.

The dog in the picture demonstrates a significant amount of handling discomfort.  She is pulling away from contact and likely won’t approach when solicited if she thinks they will attempt to touch her again.

If you dog is generally socially tolerant, take two short videos of a family member petting your dog.  In one, record when your dog approaches for social contact.  In the other have the family member approach the dog to touch them.  Do you see any differences in your dog’s body language between the two videos? 

If you have any questions about your dog or training program please call or text us at 913.712.8742. Join us remotely for our Weekly Q&A and Nail Trim sessions hosted on Zoom and streamed live through Facebook. On a tight budget? Check out our FREE courses available online.