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  • Writer's pictureVickie Foster

Training Your Dog with Positive Reinforcement

Dogs respond to being rewarded. When given treats or toys after producing a desired behavior they are likely to repeat the desired behavior. Positive reinforcement training is one of your most powerful tools in your pet training. It is a simple concept but you will need to follow some guidelines.

1. Timing is very important.

The reward has to be given within seconds of the desired behavior. For instance if you tell a dog to sit but don’t give him a reward until he stands, he will think the reward is for standing.

2. Keep it short.

Dogs don’t understand full sentences for a command. Use one word cues when asking for the desired behavior. Get them to produce the desired behavior a few times, then add the one word cue. Say it in a calm voice and don’t repeat it.

3. Consistency is key.

If there are several members of your household, have everyone use the same cue commands. If it gets confusing, post the list of cues so that everyone uses the same word.

4. It can take a dog some time to learn behaviors.

Shaping is a training technique to accomplish this. For instance if teaching a dog to shake hands, reward him at first for lifting his paw. Then reward him for touching your hand and finally reward him for shaking. Rewarding your dog as they progress in the behavior makes complicated behaviors easier to tackle.

5. The types of treats you use are important.

It should be soft, not crunch so that pieces fall on the floor. The treat should be small so that they chew it right away. Offer a variety of treats so that your pet won’t be bored with them. Say a positive remark right before offering a treat. Something like “Yes” or “Good Boy” is perfect. A toy, or petting is a good substitute for treats if your dog is not motivated by food.

6. Gradually decrease the reward as your pet learns the behavior.

When your pet is first learning, reward the behavior every time. Gradually reduce the reward to every other time, then 3 out of five times. When your pet is producing the behavior consistently, offer praise each time but only occasionally offering a treat. Your dog will come to welcome being praised and to know they sometimes get a treat.

Using these techniques you will have greater and faster results with your dog’s training. So keep those treats handy.


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