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Discussion Starter #1
I have a question for all of you. But I am especially interested to hear from people who work dogs in any capacity, SAR, police k9, service dogs, whatever.

Is there a point at which your dog is no longer getting rewarded for its work?

I was discussing some tracking theory with people on a tracking group and a judge said something like it should be 95% training (where there were rewards to be had) and 5% testing (no rewards allowed)

I trained my first service dog tasks mostly with toy rewards. She'd complete her thing and get a game of tug for it. At a certain point she was able to do her task, was able to see the fact that it helped me, and it therefore became self rewarding for her to do it. She took pride in her work. I always thanked her and told her she was my hero when she would do a task and help me. She always got positive feedback from me for a job well done, even if it was petting or whatever.

I am curious to know if SAR handlers, k9 handlers, do your dogs still get a toy for their work ever? Or, are you still doing training outside of real work where the dog is getting high value rewards for its work. Or, does the work become self rewarding and not need to be reinforced?

I would still do brush up work with her over the years where she did get rewards for things.

I have a reason for asking this but I'm curious first what any responses are.
 

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I don't have a service dog like you speak of. but, People at my club do have SAR dogs. From what I gather from their conversations they do give a game of tug following a successful track. IE the dog will track for miles through horrible terrain have to make the dog stop for water they are so focused on their mission. All for a game of tug afterwards. But I could have misunderstood.
 

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Rewards always, even if the training is self fulfilling. The dog is working and deserves a paycheck as much as we would. Testing for HRD no reward is allowed, and if a find of a victim deceased some decorum is needed in how the dog is rewarded. But by then, the dog won't be upset and reads the mood of the handler.. And rewards will still follow when able.. During training, rewards are huge and the dogs expect them even if they enjoyed the work. But our training (SAR) is different then SD work. We train for 3 given disciplines (air, trailing and HRD) and are training for the worst day/night of someone's life. The dog has to be highly sharp for miles and miles of tough terrain in horrid conditions. That isn't to say the SD dog isn't working hard all day too, but usually not in the stressful conditions an emergency situation does.

Your SD is probably rewarded in ways you don't think about, and I think the SD dogs mind tunes into their handler/charge and they find self edification in their work - but a paycheck is still a paycheck, and dogs ain't dumb, lol.. My dogs know if their subjects skimped on the goodies once found,lol..but both of my dogs will work either way and work until they drop (not that I would allow that to happen) because they enjoy it..
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I do think service dog work can be pretty stressful and demanding. My first thought is not as athletically demanding as SAR. And a service dog will mostly need to be working in a very calm, quiet state, able to sit quietly still for long periods of time but remain vigilant and ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. They can also find themselves riding in ambulances with first responders and going through waiting rooms with their human in a medical crisis. Beyond that I probably can't really compare the two because I don't know that much about SAR.

I think my gratitude and appreciation for my dog which I was not shy about expressing to her, became a valuable reward for her. I remember the way she would look at me when I told her she was my hero for helping me.

I'm not 100% sure I understand well enough but I am thinking that most of what service dogs do is not "in drive" and most of what SAR and police k9s do, is? Would love for anyone who knows more than me to chime in on that. It isn't totally relevant to my original question, just a spinoff pondering.

But this is very interesting and thanks for the answers so far and keep them coming! @Slamdunc?
 

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Please don't misunderstand. E, I know SD work is stressful and demanding on the dog - and the hours are long. It is a different type of stress most of the time though, where their owners aren't usually in a highly emotional charged state (that being said it would of course differ for the disability the dog is working for) all the time. There is down time for the SD.. Of course there is down time for the SAR dog, or MWD, or K9.

I would agree personally with the thought of the difference being the working mode the dog is in. An over amped SD would burn out fast and not be very useful for most in need of an SD. Whereas, a SAR dog is often amped up before the deployment (my dogs amp themselves and need no further fuel on the fire). I'm in awe of SD's and their tireless dedication to their charge.. It truly takes a special dog to do that sort of work.
 

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I don't have a service dog like you speak of. but, People at my club do have SAR dogs. From what I gather from their conversations they do give a game of tug following a successful track. IE the dog will track for miles through horrible terrain have to make the dog stop for water they are so focused on their mission. All for a game of tug afterwards. But I could have misunderstood.
You understood correctly
 

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For SAR, you never stop rewarding. At least with GSD. Can't speak for bloodhounds.

Would you work everyday and never get paid?

Do we start to give variable rewards? Sure. But there needs to be a balance. The dog needs to honestly think a reward MAY be coming. So you switch it up. But I know if no SAR handler that stops rewarding once the dog knows the job.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Please don't misunderstand. E, I know SD work is stressful and demanding on the dog - and the hours are long. It is a different type of stress most of the time though, where their owners aren't usually in a highly emotional charged state (that being said it would of course differ for the disability the dog is working for) all the time. There is down time for the SD.. Of course there is down time for the SAR dog, or MWD, or K9.

I would agree personally with the thought of the difference being the working mode the dog is in. An over amped SD would burn out fast and not be very useful for most in need of an SD. Whereas, a SAR dog is often amped up before the deployment (my dogs amp themselves and need no further fuel on the fire). I'm in awe of SD's and their tireless dedication to their charge.. It truly takes a special dog to do that sort of work.
I agree with this. I don't know either how often a SAR dog works? Counting training as work because they have to be ready and they have to be conditioned. SDs might work more frequently, at a lower intensity?
 

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Thecowboysgirl said:

I agree with this. I don't know either how often a SAR dog works? Counting training as work because they have to be ready and they have to be conditioned. SDs might work more frequently, at a lower intensity?

I train most everyday, but not for the length of time am SD dog does, so I would agree with idea of a lower intensity for an SD but longer hours most of the time. Frequency of mission callouts vary with seasons and years. I had 6 this past month but nothing sense November until this month.. So varies.
 

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Well, no paycheck will cause problems for workers, so I would agree that no paycheck for the dog could cause problems down the line. But how an SD is rewarded as opposed to sar, LE, or MWD could be different, at least frequency for the main reward.

An example is HRD opposed to a trail. When the dog fins a source, a quick reward is given and then the command "there's more" until all source are found. Then the big reward. Trailing, you find the person and big reward immediately. Probably similar to an SD where intermittent big rewards to little rewards are given
 

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Discussion Starter #14
You know, it just occured to me that I usually never played with her before work because she needed her energy. But when we got home from anywhere she had worked I would usually get out her favorite toy and let her play off whatever she had left for energy. And this would be much more valuable to her since I would play with her alone without any other dog we had. I don't think I consciously set out to make that her payout but now that I think of it I can remember getting home and her leaping joyfully out of the truck because now it's party time and thinking I'm too tired to do this with her but gotta do it because she's such a champ. It's a pretty delayed payout but I am sure she is smart enough to make the connection and it's mostly kind of inappropriate for SDs to be playing like she wants to play in public anyway. But I also think that she and I became so bonded that when she did a task and it got me relief, that was its own reward to her too.

For manners in public whenever anything started getting sloppy I would take her out for a training brush up which generally involved food, and get her a little more precise--if she started wanting to give in to the temptation to sniff someone's pantleg for instance.

Back to the mention of dogs being amped up, it would be totally inappropriate for a service dog to be amped up in that state in public. So lots of differences in the manner of the work, how it's conducted and for that matter how to reward for it because if she were anticipating a toy for work in public she *would* get charged up and likely no longer resemble a professional service dog. But I could brush her up with food and keep her calm and quiet.

When I see the k9s on Cops...because yeah I watch that show lol, they are blowing a gasket when they come out of the vehicle, and that's fine for their job description. Not for a SD.

So I think we pretty much have covered that my service dog, and the SAR dogs whose handlers have chimed in, are all getting rewards throughout their careers- sometimes really big deliberate rewards right at the completion of the work.

That seems in line with what the judge was saying about training tracking dogs, that most of the time it's training with lots of motivation for the dog and very seldom it's testing to show the dog can do the work and where no rewards are permitted. Though we just passed our AKC TD and the judges actually said to me someting like "Ok, we're going to head on to the next field now if you want to reward your dog." once we were back at the truck and off the field. I waited until everyone was out of sight and then of course he got his ball on a rope. Since we were off the field and no longer being judged it isn't against the rules to reward at that point, but I still didn't really party with him till they were gone. Longer than he usually has to wait but man did he ever do good work that day and he really deserved that ball. Of course I had been making over him since the final glove about how great he was, too.
 

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I have a certified cadaver dog and a live find air scent dog in training.

Of course I reward and will until the day they can no longer work or train. The cadaver dog more on an intermittent schedule as most (I think nationally about 90%) cadaver searches do not result in a find, but he also gets rewarded, albeit a bit differently, after working a blank area.

A known find is a game of tug. After working if there is no find, we do a very short obedience routine then do a few ball throws same for the live find. The live find dog gets consistently rewarded after a find but for cadaver I *never* reward unless I know the source material to be reliable.

EDIT-if there is a search with no find, we try to set up a short problem afterwards for the dog as a motivational.
 
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