4 Techniques To Help With Positive Reinforcement Training
Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Rummaging through garbage, knocking over valuables, “releasing” on the floor, or just not listening. These phrases may hit home with dog owners who have an unruly pup who is not quite “trained” yet. This could pertain to new puppy owners or older dogs who are newly introduced to a household. Enter the dreaded doggy discipline…but does it have to be?
Discipline can be a touchy topic with pet owners. Which method, which rules are correct when your best friend needs a timeout? Should you yell, point your finger, or give treats? You may read many gimmicks that exist from ‘training your dog in ten days’ to ‘the perfect way to stop the behavior’. What is the best option, not just for dog owners, but for the dog?
First and foremost, owners should never hit an animal. Animal cruelty is a serious matter and can cause serious consequences for pet owners. You may be frustrated at the “acting out” of your new best friend, however, studies have shown that positivity when working with unwanted behavior creates a longer-lasting impression. Let’s look at some suggestions on how pet owners can turn “Cujo” into “Lassie” …without The Beav.
Consistency with dogs and behavior is an important component of positive reinforcement training. Owners should figure out what rules should be in place before the training begins. This is important so that every member of your family knows what should and should not be allowed. Also, when your dog breaks a rule, owners need to follow through with the same redirection every time. This way your dog understands consistently what constitutes unwanted behavior.
Redirection is a great way for Fido to redirect his unwanted behavior. For example, your dog jumps up, grabs a pencil from the counter, and will not drop it. Try grabbing a small treat or chew toy to distract the dog into dropping the pencil. Then tell your dog he/she did a good job or was a good boy/girl. This shows your dog that they did a good thing by dropping the item and trading for a toy.
3. Choose a Key Word:
Think about and choose a specific word to say when the unwanted behavior occurs. Examples could be ‘No’, ‘Stop’, or any word that you feel would make an impression. Using the same word every time reminds the dog to stop the behavior they are doing (remember…consistency).
Your pup may need a few minutes in a time-out to help refocus their behavior. Consider separating the dog from the situation by placing them in a crate (if this is something they are used to), or outside for a few minutes. A few minutes…not hours, is all your need to make your point. Any longer and the pup forgets what the unwanted behavior was in the first place. Create a chill-out corner or another room for Fido to relax in, especially a room with a low amount of stimulation. If you are playing with your dog and they begin biting, say your keyword, turn away and stop interacting. The pup may not understand at first, but after a few times, he/she will get the hint.
Also, shouting is not the best idea for correcting behavior, as it can enforce a negative reaction from your best friend. Be firm but do so in a way that you use words positively. Lastly, try snapping your fingers and saying ‘no” when the bad behavior occurs. This gains the attention of your dog; they hear and physically see your reaction to their bad behavior.
You may not turn your pup into the TV version of Lassie, but the more effort you put into correcting unwanted behavior, the more successful you will be at raising a well-behaved dog.
If you would like more information about how you can help your dog with positive reinforcement training, please don't hesitate to contact our trainer, Wesley! We hope this has been helpful.
All proceeds from Thousand Hills Pet Resort support New Life K9s. New Life K9s provides service dogs to veterans and first responders with PTSD at no cost to them.