Positive reinforcement training is the best way to train your dog, whether a puppy or an older dog. It’s a great way to strengthen your bond with your dog and ensure your dog understands what you want from them.
What is positive reinforcement training?
Positive reinforcement training is fairly straightforward. It’s a rewards-based system that associates good things (i.e., treats or praise) with the desired behavior. When your pup follows a command (goes to the bathroom outside like you’ve been training them to do), they get rewarded. If they don’t, the dog simply doesn’t get that treat or the praise they expect. There is no physical discipline.
Why is it the best approach for training dogs?
Positive reinforcement training is a powerful tool because dogs will quickly learn to repeat a behavior to get a reward. It’s a simple method, but you should follow the guidelines to be effective and not confuse your dog.
One of the most crucial elements for effective positive reinforcement training is timing. Dogs will only associate the desired behavior resulting in a treat if the result is immediate. If there is too much delay, they may associate the treat with different behavior, think that is what you’re telling them to do, and begin repeating the unwanted behavior. This, of course, can be frustrating for both you and your dog.
An excellent example of this will be if you’re training your dog to lay down. If you tell them to lay down, and they do, but you wait for them to stand up before giving them a reward, they will likely think they’re being rewarded for standing up, not laying down. Remember that dogs do not think in the same way we do, so be careful when you give treats or praise.
It’s also important to use short words or phrases and be consistent. The simpler you can be with your commands, the better off you will be in communicating with your dog. Simple commands like sit, stay, lie down, up, shake, come, heel, leave it, or give are ideal.
Are there downsides to this style of training?
One potential downside, as noted above, is accidentally rewarding dogs for unwanted behaviors because of the delayed timing of the reward. That’s less a downside of the training method, though, and more something to be aware of as you begin training. Another concern is that your dog will only respond to commands when there’s a treat available, which is why using both treats and praise is a good idea in positive reinforcement training. Overall, there are significant benefits to positive reinforcement training and a few downsides.
It’s also worth noting that positive reinforcement training can be balanced with correcting your dog when necessary to stop unwanted behaviors. If your dog repeatedly jumps on guests, you certainly want to correct that behavior. Still, you can use a positive approach to redirect and reward the wanted behavior of calmly greeting guests.
For effective positive reinforcement training:
- Be aware of timing
- Keep it simple
- Be consistent
Keep in mind that the time it takes to train a dog is specific to that dog. Breed and personality have a lot to do with it. Some dogs, like people, are just stubborn or take a bit longer to learn things. When training on basic or more complex commands, be patient with your pup. They’re doing their best to please you, and a little patience goes a long way in training.
If you need help getting started with positive reinforcement training for your dog, reach out to our team for more information about our training packages. Fill out our brief form so we know a little about you before we reach out.