Using Positive Reinforcement

Do you know about positive reinforcement? The vast majority of dog training experts consider this as both the most effective and humane way to train your dog. Essentially, using positive reinforcement means that you reward the behavior that you wish to see repeated, and ignore any behaviors that you don’t want.

The whole theory behind positive, or non-negative, reinforcement recognizes that training sessions are more meaningful for dogs, and will to "stick" more, when a dog is able to figure out what you're asking on her own, as opposed to, for example, learning the "down" command by being forced repeatedly into a prone position, while the word "down" is repeated over and over.

Dogue de Bordeaux

Suggestions for Using Positive Reinforcement

- Use meaningful rewards so dogs don't get bored. Use

tempting incentives for good behavior. Things like food treats and physical affection are what dog trainers refer to as “primary incentives” – in other words, they’re considered as significant rewards that most dogs respond to.

- Use the right timing when your dog obeys your command. Some people use a clicker for this. You can also use your voice to mark the desired behavior: just saying “Yes!” in a happy, excited tone of voice will work perfectly. Make sure that you give her the treat right after the marker. Be consistent.

- Be consistent with your training commands, too. When you’re teaching a dog a command, you must decide ahead of time on the verbal cue you’re going to be giving her, and then stick to it. Pick one phrase for each behavior and stick with it.

Learn the Best Way to Reward Your Dog

All dogs have their favorite treats. Some dogs will do back flips for a favorite treat; other dogs prefer to be rewarded through a game with a favorite toy, or maybe even through some physical affection from you.

Some of the best ways to stroke your dog: most dogs really like having the base of the tail scratched gently; having their chests rubbed or scratched is usually a winner, too. You can also target the ears: by scratching gently at the base of the ear.

As far as dog treats are concerned, just experiment with different food treats until you find one that your dog really goes crazy for. Also, dogs actually respond most reliably to training commands when they receive treats sporadically, instead of predictably. Intermittent treating seems to keep dogs on their toes and more interested in the training session.

Ways to Correct Your Dog

The great thing about positive reinforcement training is

that all you have to do is ignore the behaviors that you don't want to see repeated. Not getting any attention (because you're deliberately ignoring her) is enough to make just about any dog pretty miserable, making this a powerful correctional tool.

Remember, even negative attention - like verbal corrections - counts as reinforcement and to some dogs, negative attention is better than no attention at all.

The more fuss you make over your dog when she does get it right, the clearer the connection will be between a particular behavior(s) eliciting no response at all, but other behaviors (the right response) eliciting massive amounts of positive attention from you.

Dog Training Recommended Reading

Hopefully this information has been helpful about techniques to use when training your dog. Remember, it's a good idea to learn as much about effective positive reinforcement training techniques as possible.

One excellent resource for dog training that I can refer you to is SitStayFetch. They have load of information on preventing and dealing with problem dog behaviors, as well as tips on learning new obedience work and 'tricks'. SitStayFetch covers a vast variety of dog training topics in minute detail and is one of the best all round, invaluable manuals for dog owners that I can think of. Check them out for yourself.

Return from Positive Reinforcement to Pet Training

"I can't think of anything that brings me closer to tears than when my old dog -- completely exhausted after a hard day in the field -- limps away from her nice spot in front of the fire and comes over to where I'm sitting and puts her head in my lap, a paw over my knee, and closes her eyes and goes back to sleep. I don't know what I've done to deserve that kind of friend."-- Gene Hill