Rewarding Your Dog With Praise Over Petting May Leave Your Relationship Lacking

Written by: Tori Holmes

April 19, 2016

When it comes to receiving praise for a job well done, you probably have a preference for either a verbal or physical congratulation. Some people want a hug or a high five, whereas others only need to hear how well they’ve done. As it turns out, dogs have a preference too.


A recent study led by Dr. Clive Wynne at Arizona State University found that when it comes to being rewarded, dogs prefer petting over verbal praise.


To determine this, the researchers organized a two-part study. In the first section, 42 shelter and pet dogs were observed while spending time alone with two individuals. One of the individuals gave the dog verbal praise and the second individual pet them. The amount of time the dog then chose to spend with each person was measured.


In the second section, 72 shelter and pet dogs individually spent time alone with one person. For the shelter dogs, the person they were with was a stranger, but for the pet dog it was their owner.


Each dog participated in eight three-minute sessions with the person. During these sessions, they received petting, praising, petting and praising, or nothing.

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After analyzing the results, the researchers found that the dogs showed more interest in the people that pet them. What was even more surprising is that the dogs seemed to show no more interest in the person giving them verbal praise than the person they had no interaction with.

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Does this mean showering your dog with praise is useless? Not quite. Combining verbal praise with someone like a food reward is a great way to increase your dog’s appreciation of praise. Once they learn that vocal praise comes with a side of tasty treats, they will learn to appreciate it more even if the food is removed.


Next time you want to acknowledge how amazing your pup is, make sure that you choose petting over praise to really get the point across. If the results of this study are true, telling your dog how awesome they are is about as beneficial as saying nothing at all!

H/t to Huffington Post

Featured image via @judywawai /Instagram

Written by: Tori Holmes

April 19, 2016