What is reward based training? 

Reward based training is a method of puppy training that encourages good ‘wanted’ behaviour by rewarding a puppy when they get something right. A reward will be anything from a tasty treat and verbal praise to fuss and cuddles, depending on what the puppy enjoys the most.

If a puppy performs an ‘unwanted’ behaviour it is simply ignored. The puppy does not get any attention or treats which means they’re less likely to repeat that behaviour again. This is also known as positive reinforcement, and it really works.

Why we never punish a dog for an unwanted behaviour

Something that makes our partnerships between hearing dogs and deaf people so unique is the unbreakable bond between the pair. They become each other’s best friends and are inseparable. In order to create and strengthen this bond throughout the dog’s life, there must be a mutual trust between dog and human.

Training methods that use punishment or negative reinforcements have been linked with behavioural problems, such as avoidance of tasks over the fear of doing wrong, and sometimes even aggression as an act of self-defence.

We want to make sure all our amazing life-changing dogs feel safe, relaxed and totally trust humans around them. They do an amazing job by changing lives – it’s the least we can do in return!

By using positive reinforcement and reward based training, our dogs aim to please. They feel more confident, safe and loved and that is incredibly important.

The benefits of reward based training

There are many reasons why reward based training works, especially when training hearing dogs. Here are a few examples:

1. It creates the all-important bond between dog and human

Our hearing dogs will be surrounded by humans their entire lives, from their puppy training volunteer, to dog trainer, to deaf person whom they will spend their life with. Establishing a bond with each of these helps to create life-changing partnerships between hearing dogs and deaf people.

2. It creates calm and happy hearing dogs

By using reward based training and positive reinforcement, we help our dogs feel calm, relaxed and unafraid. This makes for some very happy pups indeed! Practising training for short intervals also helps our young pups burn off some of the energy they seem to have in abundance, too.


3. We all have lots of fun during training

Lots of toys,tasty treats and cuddles – what’s not to love for both dog and human? When you see a hearing dog in training, they are totally focused, tail wagging and show positive body language throughout the session. Our trainers are calm, smiling and patient. It’s lovely to watch – you can see for yourself here.

4. It works

We have been using this training method since we launched Hearing Dogs in 1982, and have trained thousands of dogs without punishing them. Hearing dogs are trained not only to have impeccable obedience and manners when out in public, but also to alert deaf people to really important sounds like the fire alarm – which has saved lives. We have seen first-hand that reward based training works and creates intelligent, happy, confident and trusting hearing dogs.

What treats do we use for reward based training?

We use a mix of healthy shop bought dog treats and the very occasional high reward treat like our popular liver cake in our training sessions.

Are you interested in having a go at reward based training with your dog? Check out our delicious dog treat recipes so you can make your own!

Find out how we train our hearing dog puppies

Reward based training begins from just three weeks old. You can learn about a hearing dog’s training from birth to being matched with a deaf person in our Training Our Puppies section.