Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective and humane ways to train a dog. This method of training relies onrewarding desirable behaviors through treats, playtime, verbal praise, or other rewards. Positive reinforcement training in dogs encourages desirable behaviors by providing a reinforcing stimulus after the behavior has been performed.
If you wonder "Is positive reinforcement effective?" the answer is a sound yes! This technique not only helps you establish a good communication channel with your pup, but it strengthens the bond between you and your dog. This in turn helps create amore compliant and obedient dog who is willing to learn.
When you first begin any sort of training with your dog it’s important to have realistic expectations. Remember that just like people, different dogs learn at different speeds. Some may pick up commands quickly, while others may take a few days or weeks. YOU will have to first practice patience andremember that consistency is key when using any dog training approach.
The approach to positive reinforcement
The general rule of thumb is to always reward your dog when he does something good. That will create a pattern that is easy for him to understand, and it will naturally ease him into learning. On the cautious side, you have to pay attention to avoid rewarding negative behaviors. Something as simple as letting the dog out when he is being too hyper is a reward because he gets to run freely.
Here we list eight simple steps you can use today to use positive reinforcement training in dogs.
1. Start small
Start with simple commands such as sit, stay, or come that you can easily reward each time they complete them correctly. Be sure to give an immediate reward upon completion in order for them to understand that they did something right. Remember that a dog’s attention span can be as short as the attention span of a toddler = really short. Consider this when building your training plan.
2. Build trust
Make sure you have built trust before attempting formal training sessions by spending quality time together doing activities like walking, playing, or grooming. Building trust with your dog requires a commitment of time, patience, and dedication. Start by building positive relationships with your pet by consistently providing them with reassurance, comfort, and praise. Begin talking to your dog in a soothing voice, offering treats or other rewards when they demonstrate good behavior. Don’t forget to offer plenty of physical attention in the form of belly rubs and head scratches. The more time you spend interacting with your pet, the more likely it is for them to feel secure and comfortable.
If possible, bring your dog on regular outings and introduce them to new activities to further foster their trust in you. Allow them time to explore new places, smells and people at their own pace so that they don’t become overwhelmed or anxious. Make sure that any interactions between you and strangers are positive and that nothing threatens your pup's safety. This will help create an environment where they feel safe and secure around you even when faced with unfamiliar situations.
3. Choose the right rewards
Treats are usually the go-to reward for canine training. However, remember that your puppy may be motivated by different things such as toys, verbal encouragement or even access to certain areas of your home where they can play without being supervised constantly. When you use treats, size matters. Size = calories, and you do not want your pup to gain weight because of “excessive learning”. I used to take a small soft dog treat and break it into 4 parts, so that Winston would still smell it on my hands, but only eat a tiny piece at the time. You can use string cheese, dog treats, food kibble, Cheerios (yep), and fish crackers…at times I even used sliced steamed carrots (very low on calories!!)!!
4. Show enthusiasm
Sorry to break it to you, but a squirrel, and pretty much any flashing or moving objects are more interesting than your “sit!” in your pup’s eyes. So you will need to top up that energy and show your excitement for what you are doing. Your pup will feed off your energy so show enthusiasm when praising them. Use an excited voice and lots of body language when giving a “good boy” or “good girl” for correct behavior so your pup understands just how proud you are of them!
5. Ignore wrong answers
Just as important as rewarding good behavior isignoring wrong answers. If they don’t do what you asked then simply turn away from them and wait until they do something right again before offering reinforcement once more. That can be something as simple as having them walk back to the starting point and reset.
6. Be consistent
Consistency is key when it comes to successful positive reinforcement training (or any training to be honest) – make sure everyone involved in teaching your pup knows what commands have been taught already so they don't confuse them by randomly giving out different rewards or punishments in response to the same behavior over time.
7. Keep each session short
Especially at the beginning, make sure each session lasts no more than 10-15 minutes so your pup doesn't get bored and gives up on trying due to fatigue or frustration. Break up longer lessons into shorter chunks over multiple days instead and keep things interesting by changing up commands regularly too!
If you see that your pup is doing well, you can either have multiple short sessions in a day (maybe you are the one short on time), or you can lengthen the sessions. Importantly (see point 8), as long as your pup has fun and bonds with you, you are good to go!
8. Have fun!
Last but not least – make sure both you and your pup enjoy the experience. If either one of you isn't having fun then it's time for a break until another day when both of you are feeling ready to learn some new tricks together!
Summary and Troubleshooting
In conclusion, positive reinforcement is effective in training in dogs, and you can use it as a teaching blueprint while developing strong bonds between you and your pet! With patience, consistency, plenty of treats (and love!), any pup can learn all sorts of impressive behaviors using positive reinforcement – happy training!