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POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT DOG TRAINING & 4 STEPS TO GET YOU STARTED

Updated: Apr 25


labrador retriever laying on chair

There are many dog training methods floating out on the web. There is everything from positive reinforcement training to clicker trainer, from relationship training and dominance training. But just because there are many options available to dog owners, does not mean all methods should be treated the same. It is widely thought that positive reinforcement training is the best method to use when training your pup.

In this post, we will define positive reinforcement training and take a quick look at negative reinforcement and why you should avoid it.

WHAT EXACTLY IS POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT DOG TRAINING?

In a nutshell, positive reinforcement training is giving a reward for desired behaviors. People reward kids with an allowance for completing chores. You may reward yourself with chocolate cake on the weekend after eating healthy all week. You reward yourself with a treat after you have completed a desired behavior. Well, this is positive reinforcement.

So when we are talking about your canine friend, the same principle applies. But dogs don't really care about money or cake, do they? What you can reward them with are things dogs find pleasurable or important, such as treats, praises, or toys. Giving a reward motivates a pup and therefore, they are more likely to repeat desired behaviors. 

Positive reinforcement training has many benefits, including making your pup feel good and helping to strengthen the human-canine bond.

NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT AND WHY IT IS HARMFUL

Negative reinforcement is a method that includes taking something away in order to achieve a desired behavior. Usually, something unpleasant is applied to the environment, so it has to be taken away. Some common examples of this method are using bark or shock collars or using water sprayers.

Both negative reinforcement dog training and punishments like yelling, pulling on a leash, or spanking should be avoided at all costs. According to a study, negative reinforcement can be extremely harmful to a dog and increase fear and aggression. This training method should instead be replaced with positive reinforcement dog training. 

With that being said, here are some quick tips to get you and your pup started with positive reinforcement dog training.

GETTING STARTED

  1. Use short commandsThis might be a given, but this is just a reminder to keep commands simple such as “sit,” or “paw.” If you want to add more words to your command, make sure you slowly incorporate them so your pup doesn’t get confused. For example, if you want to teach your pup to “lie down,” you want to start with the command “down” first. When your dog gets it right, then you should add “lie” to the equation.

  2. Get your timing right In order for your dog to associate a word with your command, it is imperative to reward them with a treat IMMEDIATELY after they complete the task. This should be done within a few seconds of them accomplishing the task. For example, imagine you're teaching your dog to sit and he sits, but then he’s up on all fours again. So if you wait and give them the treat after he’s gotten up on all fours, you’ve waited too long. In this scenario, he might get confused and think “sit” means standing up on all fours.   

  3. Try to limit distractions When you first get started training with positive reinforcement, try to limit distractions. For example, starting training in a dog park might not be a good starting point since there are many sights, smells, and stimuli that can easily distract your pup.  

  4. Keep going Stay consistent and patient with your pup and you will see results. Achieving a desired behavior will take time, patience, and some dedication.

Please remember that if you want to train your pup, whether it be simple commands or more complex commands, it is imperative that you use a positive reinforcement method. Don’t get discouraged and remember to have fun with your pup. This will help strengthen the bond between you and your dog! 

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