Whether you are a new owner or you simply need some help with how to train a dog, positive reinforcement is a great way to start. Read on to discover more about why you should use this technique to train your dog and some of the typical mistakes that owners make.
What is positive reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement training is all about praising your dog when they do things correctly. It forms an essential part of house-training which allows dogs to connect aspects of their training with rewards.
Some people who punish their pet for bad behaviour rather than positively encourage the behaviour they want to see, often find that their dogs can become aggressive.
By using positive reinforcement, you can make training your dog much more fun for everyone involved, and as a result it is much more successful.
How to reward good behaviour
If during training, your pet obeys a command such as sitting, using the toilet outdoors and not pulling on a lead, you should reward the behaviour right away.
What kind of reward should you use?
- Food or titbits such as small bits of meat or little biscuits work best for training a dog as they can be delivered quickly to praise a pet. However, you should be mindful that the treats you use, should form part of a balanced diet.
- Praise your dog, by petting them or using words like “good boy/girl”.
- Other rewards that go down well, include playing – dogs love a game of tug-o-war or fetch.
If you reward your dog after they respond positively to your training, you should continue to do this every time, because if you aren’t consistent they can become easily confused and misled.
It’s important to remember to keep the training fun, as dogs become easily bored if methods are always the same. Use new praises, as well as different treats and commands to keep them interested!
Why is positive reinforcement training is not working?
If your dog isn’t responding to your training, it’s likely that the technique you’re using is not the right one, rather than that positive reinforcement is not working.
It may be that you are not delivering the reward immediately after the well-performed command or that the treat you have chosen isn’t preferred by your dog – for example, they don’t like chicken.
Instead of giving up, you should try out different methods of rewarding your dog to see which is most effective, but also to keep it interesting for your pet.
Things to avoid when positive reinforcement training
- Use treats excessively – simply petting them and giving verbal praise may be enough.
- Making it complicated – use simple words such as ‘come’, ‘sit’ and ‘down’.
- Leaving a gap between desired behaviour and giving the reward – your dog may stop behaving as required as they think they aren’t getting the praise they deserve.
When training a dog, we always recommend using positive reinforcement as it can strengthen the bond between you and your pet, as well as produce desired behaviour. To keep your pet happy and healthy, it’s always a good idea to take out dog insurance to help you manage any unexpected costs.