Positive reinforcement involves using rewards to encourage positive behavior instead of using punishments to prevent bad behavior. Using positive reinforcement to train your dog is the most popular and best form of training both because it is humane and because it is highly effective.
How to use positive reinforcement to train your dog
For anyone wanting to use this training method, here are five important rules to follow.
Use the right dog treats
Food is one of the best ways to use positive reinforcement to train your dog, but you need to use the right kinds of dog treats. There are many dog treat options out there such as ORIJEN dog food that might be a great option for your dog. If you’re looking for small bite-sized snacks, you could consider using cheese or chunks of pumpkin. Avoid human foods such as chocolate or grapes because these are toxic to dogs.
Using positive reinforcement to train your dog means rewarding with play time!
Food is not the only form of reward that you can use. Playing with your dog can also be a form of positive reward. This can be anything from a brief game of tug of war to a walk. Ignoring your dog can have the opposite effect, and you don’t want that!
Don’t give in to begging
It’s important that you reserve treats as a reward for good behavior. If your dog is whining for food, don’t give in – you don’t want them to associate bad behavior such as whining or barking with treats. This guide at Petiquette offers more advice on preventing begging behavior.
Use simple commands
When giving commands, make sure that they are short and clear. Your dog will pick up on these commands more easily that way. This is a good example of using positive reinforcement to train your dog: link specific simple commands with treats. For instance, the commands “come” or “here” can be used to get your dog to return to you; by giving treats every time, you are encouraging your dog to keep coming back to you because they know that they’ll be rewarded.
Be consistent when setting the rules
Your dog needs to know the boundaries. Make sure that you’re not rewarding a certain behavior, and then punishing it the very next day as this will confuse your dog and make him less obedient. A lack of consistency is most common when different people in your household are setting different rules. For instance, one of you may be encouraging the dog to jump onto the sofa while another person may be saying “off” every time she gets onto the furniture. Have a family meeting, so that you are sure everyone knows the rules.
This is especially important if you have children in your house. Kids are a lot more likely to want the dog to sleep on the couch with them, so if you don’t want your dog on the furniture, you might have to train your kids too! However, I think you’ll find that you want the dog on the couch, chair, bed, whatever with you too. That’s the way it has worked in this house! I have so many friends who have not wanted a dog, and then they give in to the rest of the family’s wish for a dog. Once they say okay to having a dog, they say, “Okay, but the dog can’t get on the furniture.” Then the dog comes home with them, and they fall so madly in love with the dog that that rule goes out the window!
Whatever rules you set, just be consistent. Don’t confuse your dog, and you’ll be a lot happier! And, as always, adopt, don’t shop!