Positive reinforcement is a form of dog training that uses praise and rewards as an incentive to condition good behaviours and encourage response to commands. It is a gentle and collaborative training method that doesn’t enforce punishments or discouragements, making it a popular choice among dog owners.
Each individual dog is unique and as such will respond to different kinds of incentives such as food, toys, verbal praise or physical affection. The key to this method of training is to work out which of these motivates your dog; it may be one or a combination of a few.
If you are going to use positive reinforcement then you’ll need to have a target of set commands that you would like your dog to respond to. These are usually vocal – but can be paired with gestures – and include ‘stay’, ‘lie down’ and ‘come’ (this can also be in the form of a whistle or their own name). Once your dog has learnt to respond to these commands then you should be able to have control of them in most situations.
In addition to basic commands you can also teach your dog trick commands such as ‘roll over’, ‘play dead’ and ‘speak’, whilst these aren’t vital they can help to strengthen the level of obedience developed by your pet.
The goal is to get your dog to associate good behaviour with positive outcomes. To achieve this ensure that you reward your dog immediately every time they do as you ask. This will strengthen the link of doing as you ask with treats or affection, meaning they’ll be more inclined to follow your command.
During the early stages of training you may find that it takes a while for your dog to respond to commands. However, the key here is to be patient, persevere and reward them the moment they do as you ask. If you follow this practice then your dog will soon become responsive and as they develop it will become second nature for them to follow commands.
To maintain this level of obedience it is essential that you continually give verbal confirmation. When your dog follows a command reward them with the associated positive, but also further reinforce the behaviour with a “good dog” or something similar.
Whilst this training is non-punitive it is very important not to reward bad behaviour as you will confuse your dog.
The key things to remember when using positive reinforcement are: find out what your dog likes and will respond to; time your rewards carefully and be consistent.