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Molly and Tim: Re: Conversation on ball vs food reward.
Hi Tim: In the conversation you mentioned Molly now likes food over the ball, and is doing drive by sniffing in her hunting. Two things you can do is mix it up, if she finds one day the ball is more rewarding than food use that. Next day find out if she is more interested in the toy. What I like to do when I want to know which is more rewarding is offer in one hand food the other the ball. (usually two types of food one in one hand and one in the other if testing for what the dog values more that day) The dog will choose which one they prefer first. Yes, most dogs will go for the food then take the ball! LOL However, you know then that the food is more valuable. I like to use the ball as a reward, however in some situations like hunting I will use the food first, as an immediate reward, and get more interaction. Then go for the ultimate ball reward. (You can see my dog will take food for me then leave to the other room staring at the ball for his other reward) I will often leave the ball in another room, or on a counter where he knows it is and do an exercise with him, whether it is another behaviour I am teaching or heeling. When I first did this, he would sit and look at the ball for the longest time, before he paid any attention to me. Behaviour first, then reward! If you find you are not clicking at the right time, then use a word marker like ‘yes’ and reward with a piece of food and praise. This can also help in those moments when you are not sure when to click. I do have good timing with a clicker and treats, lots of practice, however some behaviours I use a word marker, if my hands are full, or I want to have the ball on me hidden. Either works for us. Practice and try different rewards with her and see what works for the two of you, and mix it up each time. I tend to use a ‘trade’ with my dog to get the ball back a piece of food for the ball. When he has the ball, and I want to train another behaviour I offer food by dropping it on the floor and saying ‘trade’. He drops the ball, and gets the food. I pick up the ball, ask for a behaviour, and then reward either with food on offer, or the ball. I hope this gave you some ideas to try.