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I got this article in my email from the USDAA (Agility association). It tells us what we know but goes a little further with a link to the online published article.
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Dogs Prefer Petting to Being Praised
By Claudia Bensimoun

Are we connecting with our dogs in the right way? In a recent study, Dr. Erica N. Feuerbacher from University of Florida and Dr. Clive Wynne from the Arizona State University, two canine cognition behaviorists and experts, examined what our furry best friends preferred most: petting or verbal praise. They also studied whether a stranger's touch had the same effect on dogs as being petted by their owners. In this study, shelter dogs, owned dogs with strangers, and owned dogs with their owners were tested during numerous sessions together. This study is published in Behavioral Processes: Shut up and pet me! Domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) prefer petting to vocal praise in concurrent and single-alternative choice procedures

The two behaviorists worked at the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University to study 42 dogs of different breeds and mixes, as well as rescue dogs, to determine if the dogs prefer petting or praise. They also examined whether dogs preferred being petted by their owner or by strangers.

In the first part of the testing, both the researchers studied how individual dogs got along with two people in a room. The dog was petted by one person while another person praised the dog verbally. Both the researchers then compared the amount of time that each dog spent with each person.

In the other half of the study, 72 rescue and pet dogs were used to research petting and verbal praise response. In this case, one dog was walked into a room with one person inside. The rescue dogs had a stranger and the dogs' owners with them in the room. Here interactions between both the dog and person were studied and then recorded. This took place during three-minute increments, and took place over eight times.

Results

The researchers found that dogs enjoyed being touched and petted much more than being praised verbally. Dr. Wynne, well known for his work on canine cognition at Arizona State University says that dogs seem to show more interest in the person touching them than in the person verbally praising or talking to them. Results demonstrate that dogs enjoy being petted regardless of who is doing the petting. Dr. Feuerbacher also mentioned in her research that dogs have a lower heart rate and lower blood pressure when petted. Nonetheless, research from a previous study does show that there is one thing that dogs do prefer: eating.

So next time you're thinking of rewarding your dog, try giving him a nice pat and treat instead of a "Good dog!" Read more at the USDAA site: https://www.usdaa.com/article.cfm?newsID=2723.
 

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I use verbal praise with a linked physical activity of treats or physical pats or play (which adds excitement to the touching). I try not to use words alone except in a competition environment to confirm for the dog that they are right (my dogs don't like to be wrong). It does help them keep working but it doesn't give them the same reward as food/play/patting does.

I think we all know this (the above), but need to remember what really makes our best friends happy and to be sure we know about degrees of reward. I even use different toys for higher/lower levels of stimulation (retrieving a ball is not as stimulating as playing tug with me, liver is a better treat than Yummy Chummies, etc.). When my dog has done something really well, I give the verbal to let them know something is coming (bridging the gap of saying the dog is good and providing a physical reward). This was a hard lesson to learn and be consistent with. Most agility students have this area of difficulty, especially with wild untrammeled play time (it can be embarrassing - or so we think).
 
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