In short, a reward is in the eye of the recipient. I think of Ron Weasley from Harry Potter and the hand knit sweater. He REALLY didn't want the sweater his mom made him for Christmas - he got one every year and was embarrassed by them. Harry, never having a sweater, really was touched by the gift Mrs. Weasley made him.
Last night, we had a good lesson in "rewards."
Aislyn, my three year old daughter, is trying a full night without her bedroom light. I told her she had to pick her binky or the light (she picked binky) AND she gets a reward of whatever she wants for breakfast tomorrow morning if she can make it through the night.
"I want a Nutella and orange cheese stick sandwich."
"Can I just make you a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich?"
"No. Nutella and cheese stick."
"Ok, Nutella and cheese."
"NO, Mom. Cheese STICK."
So, a reward I never .... never would have thought of - a Nutella and Cheese STICK sandwich.
Now, I could have given her a new toy. I could have given her a peanut butter sandwich. I could have had a dance party with her. Those things would not have been as rewarding as a Nutella and cheese stick sandwich.
Dog help us if we were out of Nutella. Or cheese sticks.
This is a real reward.
Think about that the next time your dog won't come when called. Was he expecting a game with you and you just pet him on the top of his head? Is that head rub rewarding at all to your dog? We know you think it is but does your dog perceive that as a reward?
Does the behavior of "come" increase or decrease with a head rub instead of a game of tug or a piece of cheese?