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Happy dog, happy owner: why training with positive enforcement is a good idea

by Kira Garret | August 19, 2013

Dog training has gone through some profound changes over the eons that people and dogs have lived and worked together – and even in recent years. Unfortunately, many of the formerly common methods were cruel and only served to intimidate and hurt dogs. Today, we have a better understanding of how to interact with our dogs in ways that are both humane and encouraging, and therefore more effective for training. Positive reinforcement is at the heart of those ideas.

In positive reinforcement training, dogs are rewarded for doing things right, rather than punished for making mistakes that they likely don’t understand. Perhaps the best part about this training concept is that it’s simple – anyone can do it!

Here are some key concepts of positive reinforcement:

·       When your dog responds correctly to a command, reward him immediately. Timing is critically important – you want him to associate the reward with the correct action.

·       There are a variety of ways to reward your dog. You can give food treats, verbal praise, or use a clicker to indicate a job well done. Because rewarding with food treats can get slightly expensive, and you might not always have them close at hand, it’s best to use them in combination with the other reward methods. That way, if you’re out for a walk and your dog does something you ask, he’ll understand that “Good boy!” is just as much praise as a biscuit.

·       Use brief commands and keep them consistent. Instead of using strings of words to communicate with your dog, choose short words like “sit,” or “off,” and even short phrases like “leave it”. Make sure that everyone in your household knows the commands and uses them in the same way.

Everyone wants a well-behaved dog that listens to commands, and while that is one of the key benefits to positive reinforcement training, there’s another that’s perhaps most important. Positive reinforcement helps to create a strong, trusting bond between you and your dog – and that’s a benefit that will last a lifetime. 

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