Positive reinforcement in dog training tends to go by many names, names such as: reward-based training, clicker training, pain or force free training etc. Despite the terminology, the general theory behind this remains the same.
What we’ll cover in this post
- What is positive reinforcement?
- Positive reinforcement, Clicker training
- Changing behaviours with positive reinforcement
What is positive reinforcement?
If you give your dog a reward such as play, food, toys or praise etc. when he responds to you or performs an action/behaviour that you like, then that behaviour is likely to be repeated.
Essentially, your dog starts to learn that good things happen to him when he does the thing you like.
This method of training is called positive reinforcement, it has been scientifically proven to be the most effective way to train your dog. Positive reinforcement also happens to be humane and cruelty free which we at Akoca Pets feel strongly passionate about.
The strongest relationships between dogs and humans are based on cooperation and kindness NOT human dominance and animal submission. If you choose to use positive techniques when building a relationship with your dog, you will be on your way to establishing and maintaining a connection that increases trust and results in a stronger, healthier bond between you.
To put it plainly, if your dog feels good about you he’ll be happier, better behaved, more confident, and more likely to respond to you when you ask him to do something.
Positive reinforcement – Clicker Training
One of the most effective ways to aid you in achieving your training goals is Clicker training. A Clicker is a piece of equipment which makes a quick unique sound (Get yours by clicking HERE). That way when your pooch hears it, it’s easily distinguishable from the rest of his world.
The key to Clicker training is timing. As we have said in other posts, dogs live in the moment. Because of this it’s important to let them know straight away when they’ve done something right or wrong. This is where a Clicker comes in, they are fantastic for breaking down behaviours or new tricks into stages. The way it works is you’ll “click” when your dog performs the desired behaviour and quickly reward with a treat for instance. After a few repetitions, your dog will learn that when he hears the “click”, he has performed the desired behaviour and this can be used to progress the training further. Of course, you don’t have to use a Clicker. Some people use a certain word said in a unique way to achieve the same effect.
For more on how to use a clicker, check out our post on How To Cut Your Dogs Nails.
Changing behaviours with positive reinforcement
The process of changing a dog’s behaviour using positive reinforcement relies on you understanding your dog and having patience. It takes consistency, repetition and isn’t something that happens overnight.
The following steps are handy to use as a guide when it comes to adjusting a dogs behaviour using positive reinforcement.
Investigate: Firstly you need to identify why it is your dog is doing the undesirable behaviour. You can’t deal with a behaviour unless you know what the root cause is. Why is he barking at a visitor? Why is he jumping up at you?
Understand: Once you know why, you can then ask yourself how best to treat the behaviour. To do this, it is important you understand how best to motivate your dog be it play, treat, praise or toys.
Communicate: Figure out how to communicate clearly. As we mentioned earlier, the use of a Clicker is very good for this. (Hint: Timing is key when is comes to Clicker training)
Reward: Rewards in the form of food, toys, praise, or play are great, but every dog is different. Whichever of these motivates your dog the most is what you want to be using. Rewards are only the half of it however, it is equally important that you give off an exciting positive energy to really motivate your dog!
Be positive: Again, it is important that you are being positive and fun so that your dog wants to get involved. Never hit, scream or yank your dog. This is counterproductive and will only slow down what you are trying to achieve or worse.
Break things down: Learning a new behaviour can be difficult for your dog. Your dog naturally wants to please you so he is trying. If your dog isn’t getting something try going slower and breaking it down into little stages especially for the more pertinent behaviours.
Consistency is essential: This goes for the rest of your “pack” not just you. Think about it, if one person lets your dog on the couch and someone else does not, he will get confused making the training more difficult than it needs to be. Establish the rules beforehand and make sure everyone sticks to them.
Be Patient: Much like us, the more significant the behaviour issue, the longer it may take to develop a solution. Stick with it and know that you, like many others can succeed if you use positive reinforcement.
We hope we have given you enough information for you to get started on your path of positive reinforcement.
Remember, this is not an overnight thing and will take time and patience. Rather than look at it as a chore, enjoy the time you spend with your pooch.
If you have questions, leave a comment below and we will do our best to advise.
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Good luck 🙂
Thanks for reading,