One of the main reasons I don’t follow any single training “method” is the idea that there is one way that works for every animal.
Ideally a reward should be something the animal really wants over anything else. It should be comparable to giving someone a 20 dollar bill for helping you out or cooking them some dinner or buying them a gift. The reward has to have some meaning.
This is why simply giving dogs treats constantly (as most “positive trainers” do) is usually not effective. First of all, the treats lose meaning after they’ve been fed 50 in the first half hour – just as millionaires view money as less important than the rest of us might. If you give them a treat as a bonus, when they did something really well, suddenly this reward is given some real meaning and the animal looks forward to it. It becomes special.
The other reason is that not all animals see food as a reward! As I mentioned above, we want to find their “currency”. For some animals treats really are the most amazing thing you could give them (food-oriented, much?!). Others would rather you scratch an itch (most animals have an “itchy spot” that they simply love to have scratched), cuddle with them for a moment, play with them, or throw a toy.
My dog will take a frisbee over a piece of meat any day! That’s just how he is. So it’s up to me to adjust my training so that he gets the best reward, in his eyes, for doing good work.
Play around with some different ideas and see what works best for your animals!