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Positive Reinforcement Training Tips!

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do. This is because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the positive behaviour. Positive reinforcement is a fun and kind way to train dogs. Dogs are social animals and love interaction! One example is if a dog is given a reward for sitting, he will be more likely to sit again!

Timing is essential with positive reinforcement

  • Reward your pet immediately or within seconds of behaving correctly. Otherwise he will not associate it with the proper action. e.g. if you ask your dog to sit but reward him when he’s already stood up, he’ll think the reward is for standing up.

  • Also using a clicker to reinforce the correct behaviour can improve your timing and help your dog understand the association between the correct behaviour and the treat.

  • Each time you use a food reward, use a verbal reward by praising your dog! Use short phrases like “Good Dog” in a very positive and happy tone. Then give the treat.

  • Vary the food treats to make it more interesting. They should be very small, soft piece of food so that he can swallow it quickly and then have your attention again.

  • Use dog toys, praise or brief play if your dog isn’t as motivated by treats which can be just as effective!

  • Keep Commands Short and they should be short and uncomplicated. i.e. sit, stay, down (meaning “lie down”), leave it, stand, come, heel (when wanting your dog to walk by your side), paw (to give you his paw) etc.

  • Be consistent. Make sure all your family and anyone caring for your dog uses the same commands. So your dog doesn’t get confused. Also consistency means rewarding good behaviour and never rewarding undesired behaviour.

  • Reinforce good behaviour for example getting your dog to sit before letting him out the door, to prevent your dog darting out in a rush. Also making him sit before stroking and petting your dog helps prevent jumping up at people in general. If your dog jumps up, stay calm and turn your back on him. Ignore his negative behaviour and don’t speak. Don’t punish your dog! Then when he’s back with his paws on the ground, reward him immediately and give lots of attention! Also making him sit before his food teaches him to be calm and have good food manners.

  • Positive reinforcement helps with Recall training which is essential for your dog’s safety. Get into the habit of calling your dog back to you periodically during the day, at home, in the garden on walks! Crouch down and hold your arms out wide and call him in a very positive, excited manner. However long at first he takes to return, reward him with a treat or toy and lots of praise. This is reinforcing that coming back to you results in something good happening.

Once your dog has reliably learned the required behaviour(s) reduce the treats and switch to intermittent reinforcement. This is when you continue with praise, but gradually reduce the number of times he receives a treat.

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