Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

What is Positive Reinforcement Dog Training?

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training, also known as Positive or Rewards-based dog training, is when you use rewards to encourage and teach your dog and puppy the behaviors you expect from them.

As your dog learns that the good behaviors result in rewards, they are more likely to repeat them. The rewards are not bribes, and your dog or puppy determines what is the most motivating positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.

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Other training can have unintended consequences

Punishment isn’t always intended but happens by us. A good example from The Spruce Pets might be when you catch your dog urinating on your carpet and scold it or resort to the age-old trick of smacking it with a rolled-up newspaper.

Your intention is to tell the dog that it’s not acceptable to eliminate inside your home. Instead, dogs often learn that it’s not safe to eliminate when you are around. You create avoidance, practiced by your dog, and this doesn’t teach the dog what they SHOULD do next time. The worst part is you’ve chipped away at his/her trust for you.

Cute puppy

How Positive Dog Training works

Let me explain a better and more effective way. For this positive reinforcement training to work some guidelines must be followed:

Rewards are seen as valuable to your dog

Most dogs are food-motivated, so treats work well for training. Keep a variety of bite-sized treats – something that your dog will not have to spend much time chewing or that crumbles and falls to the floor – available, mixing up the reward helps to keep them from getting bored. Treats should be accompanied by verbal rewards.

For dogs that are not motivated by treats, try a favorite toy, petting/praise, or something else they love!

Puppy running with ball in mouth

The most common rewards are:

  • Treats and food
  • Toys
  • Verbal Praise

Whatever reward you and your dog choose, make sure you keep it handy so you can reward them when they prove they are learning.

Rewards are given at the appropriate time

The timing of the reward is one of the most crucial parts of the process.

For example, if your dog sits for you, the treat should be given as soon as they sit. If you wait until they stand up to give the treat, they are no longer being rewarded for sitting, they are being rewarded for standing.

While your dog is learning a new behavior, treats should be given every time they perform that behavior. As your dog is reliably able to demonstrate the behavior, slowly start decreasing how often a treat is given, while continuing to praise them.

Eventually, you will give them treats occasionally, but not predictably, and your dog will learn that they will get a treat sometimes if they keep doing what they are doing.

rewards based training with treats
Puppy training is the most important training you can establish.

Positive reinforcement that teaches GOOD behavior:

  • Sit before going through a door (between rooms and/or inside/outside).
    • Helps keep your dog from darting out doors before you.
  • Sit before meals.
    • Good mealtime manners.

Positive reinforcement that teaches BAD behavior (things not to do):

  • Every time your dog barks at a noise outside, you let them outside to get them to stop.
    • Rewards them with access to the yard for barking.
  • Feeding your dog treats from your plate.
    • Teaches your dog to beg for food when you are eating.

Training is practiced consistently

Every member of the household should be using the same cues and only reward the behavior you desire. If you or a member of the household thinks your dog needs a treat, they should be performing some behavior to earn that treat.

The gold standard for dog training is rooted in positive reinforcement, compassion, and canine ethology.

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