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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys!

I just wanted some opinions on other rewards used besides food for a really strong come cue. Basenji owning folks in particular would be great :)
I feel that using treats, even high value, start to get boring and lead to some ignorance of the cue. Since Basenjis are a very "well what's in it for me?" breed, I'd like to switch it up and use some other very fun rewards other than food when it's not as tantalizing. He's not a big toy loving dog ( I would even go so far to say he has a pretty low prey drive for a Basenji) but loves chews, kongs, and bully sticks. I usually reserve these rewards for crate training at the moment. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated!
 

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Hey guys!

I just wanted some opinions on other rewards used besides food for a really strong come cue. Basenji owning folks in particular would be great :)
I feel that using treats, even high value, start to get boring and lead to some ignorance of the cue. Since Basenjis are a very "well what's in it for me?" breed, I'd like to switch it up and use some other very fun rewards other than food when it's not as tantalizing. He's not a big toy loving dog ( I would even go so far to say he has a pretty low prey drive for a Basenji) but loves chews, kongs, and bully sticks. I usually reserve these rewards for crate training at the moment. Any suggestions would be highly appreciated!
My basenji mix really hates doing things. I change the flavors of training treats often, and for some behaviors use raw meats. Nature's Variety makes raw diets in "bite size" forms. I use their frozen variety if I'm working at home. As for other rewards than food... Squeaky toys. Especially ones with very distinctive/unique sounds, like frog croaking or oinks.
 

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I see no reason why food won't continue to work as a reward!

The important thing is that you switch it up a bit and be smart about what foods you use and when. You obviously don't want to overuse your most powerful motivator. Save super high value, stinky, yummy treats for the really important cues that you NEED him to follow, like come or emergency commands for his or your safety. These should be treats that he NEVER gets except when he follows those cues, and they should be the foods that he will do backflips for. Use lower value treats for commands that he knows and are in the process of being proofed. And you should have a variety of other treats with various degrees of value for training new behaviors. Higher value treats work great for jackpots when he does something PERFECT, and slightly lower for when he's still getting there.

As far as reward toys go, you actually CAN build up his prey drive some with a tug toy. The more you play with him and encourage him to tug, the more he will come to enjoy it and view tugging as a reward. It does take some effort though! You might want to look into natural rabbit fur tugs....The smell and feel of a real prey animal might bring out that side of him more, and make him more willing to work for it. Also, try toys that squeak or make noises. Again, it might help to bring out that drive. A flirt pole might be a good investment too, they are pretty and cheap to make.
 

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Save super high value, stinky, yummy treats for the really important cues that you NEED him to follow, like come or emergency commands for his or your safety. These should be treats that he NEVER gets except when he follows those cues, and they should be the foods that he will do backflips for.
This is my preferred method, has been (for the whole family) with Toby, who had that very spitzy 'everything is negotiable' attitude and is now for Lexy, who needs to know a good recall in a highly distractible setting (the park).

Eskye's idea of rotating high-value treats is another great idea, I think. Sort of like a lottery where they win a different jackpot every time!

But especially for recall (or the last stages at the very least where you are doing real-world scenarios) I would be using treats. Otherwise the dog will very quickly learn to come only if you have a toy in your hand. But hey... if you have a toy that is small enough to stash in a coat-pocket, by all means go for it.

Basenji are not biddable dogs that will perform commands simply cause they know have to, and don't mind inconveniencing themselves to obey you. Obedience will happen because the reward is a lottery: they will do it because hey, y'never know, there might be a treat in it for them! Again with Toby, not a biddable dog but extremely obedient... and when he obeys, you see that gleam of hunger in his eyes, that 'Oh boy I hope I get a goodie for this!' He's not disappointed if you come up empty... its just a chance to win a prize for him. Like giving him a doggy scratch card.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I see no reason why food won't continue to work as a reward!

The important thing is that you switch it up a bit and be smart about what foods you use and when. You obviously don't want to overuse your most powerful motivator. Save super high value, stinky, yummy treats for the really important cues that you NEED him to follow, like come or emergency commands for his or your safety. These should be treats that he NEVER gets except when he follows those cues, and they should be the foods that he will do backflips for. Use lower value treats for commands that he knows and are in the process of being proofed. And you should have a variety of other treats with various degrees of value for training new behaviors. Higher value treats work great for jackpots when he does something PERFECT, and slightly lower for when he's still getting there.

As far as reward toys go, you actually CAN build up his prey drive some with a tug toy. The more you play with him and encourage him to tug, the more he will come to enjoy it and view tugging as a reward. It does take some effort though! You might want to look into natural rabbit fur tugs....The smell and feel of a real prey animal might bring out that side of him more, and make him more willing to work for it. Also, try toys that squeak or make noises. Again, it might help to bring out that drive. A flirt pole might be a good investment too, they are pretty and cheap to make.
Thank you for the reply. I do try to rotate his treats and only use high value for the recall training, especially outside. I'm just worried he'll get bored of those eventually. Hopefully not :(((
I'm still making and experimenting with homemade treats as well. He really goes crazy for tuna and cheese.
It's hard to control his distractions too. I know I'm supposed to build up distance and distractions but I can't control whether a car will go by or a kid comes screaming around the corner of a normally quiet area. He is very reactive to cars and I always have him on leash when I know I'll be around them. I can't use his re-call in this situation yet since it's too powerful of a distraction for him and he's completely unresponsive. He's never truly off-leash yet for re-calls either. I always have a 20 foot leash attached that he'll drag when we're out.
As for toys, I was told he loves squeaky toys by his breeder and bought a few that he won't touch lol! I roll around on the floor and get really excited and squeak them, throw them, etc. No response; he just sits on the couch and looks at me like I have three heads. Same thing with the flirt poll that I attached a Skinneez squeaky toy to. I've tried plastic bags with the flirt poll too and sometimes those work. I've noticed he gets really excited over birds more than anything so I bought some toys that whistle and a duck squeaky toy that sounds like a duck. I'm excited for his response when those toys come in.
 
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