How to Rank Fido’s Reinforcers

You reinforce the action or verb, and reward the animal or noun. - Terry Ryan

Before any training, the first thing to do is rank the value of the dog’s favorite rewards, which will become reinforcers. This exercise will go through the dog’s top five favorite treats, toys, and even people. Some examples of food you should include: kibble, cheese, roast beef, hot dogs, boiled chicken, freeze dried beef, and normal treats. Some examples of toys to include are balls, Kong, rope, towel.

Reinforcers can also act as a distraction or a competing motivator to the dog. They will help build the dog’s impulse control.


This exercise is a fun game and it will go ten rounds. Grab a pen and paper. Write down the dog’s top five rewards for food, toys, and people on a piece of paper. Priority of listing of rank does not matter because this exercise will determine the rank of each object. Each reward will be in each position twice. In each round, the first object the dog goes to or picks up gets five points, second one gets four points, and so on. By the fourth or fifth round, there should be an obvious pattern of the dog’s top one or two high value reinforcers. It is important to run through all ten rounds so each reinforcer is properly ranked one through five. Once a toy is selected, remove the toy or person from the immediate area so the dog can not access it. Add up all the points at the end of the tenth round and you will have your list.

1 2 3 4 5

1 3 4 5 2

2 3 4 5 1

2 5 3 1 4

3 2 5 1 4

3 4 5 2 1

4 1 2 3 5

4 5 1 2 3

5 1 2 4 3

5 4 1 3 2