Bringing home a puppy or new dog can be such an exciting time for your family. Training your dogs to behave properly is one of the biggest priorities in the first few weeks. Using positive reinforcement is an effective approach to training your dogs.
Products to Help Train with Positive Reinforcement
Dog clickers are used as a way of positively reinforcing good behavior. This small handheld device makes a clicking noise when you push a button. This click should be followed by a treat and positive praise like saying “Good job!”, which then works as a reinforcing stimulus.
Over time, your dogs will associate that noise with something positive. Therefore, they will display positive behavior even if no reward follows when they hear the clicking noise.
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Local pet stores and online vendors sell dog treats of all shapes, sizes, and flavors. When you first start working with your pups, it may be a good idea to choose small training treats such as Zuke's Puppy Treats.
You may also choose to reward your pup after an effective learning session with a KONG - Classic Dog Toy filled with peanut butter or edible filling.
Keeping your dogs mentally and physically stimulated throughout the way is an effective strategy in this type of method. Be sure your pup is getting at least two walks a day or active playtime.
Providing your furry friend with several choices of balls and toys will help their mind to stay active, helping keep them out of trouble as well.
One key to positive reinforcement is staying consistent. When you use this type of reinforcement with your dogs, you will limit the amount of negative punishment (sometimes referred to as negative reinforcement), even if your pups perform a negative behavior.
What is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement is when you give a reward for the desired behavior. This type of reinforcement is often done with humans and has been effective in rearing children to develop positive behaviors.
The great thing is, positive reinforcement works well with our furry friends too. By using reinforcements, you reward your dogs with a reinforcing stimulus like a treat, praise, or fun things such as playtime or walks.
What are some Examples of Positive Reinforcement?
Some examples of positive reinforcement for your pups include verbal praises, cheering them up while they work on learning new behaviors, giving them a treat, and allowing them to play with their toys every time they use the grass instead of your carpet during housebreaking.
These rewards work as reinforcers as they encourage your pups to learn and perform the desired behavior. These reinforcers increase the probability that your pups would resort to acting the same way next time because of these reinforcers.
Another example letting him hear verbal praise every time he learns and practices the desired behavior.
It is the opposite of negative reinforcement or negative punishment like yelling at your pups when they go potty on the carpet. Positive reinforcement sends a clear message to your dogs about the desired behavior.
When can I use it?
Potty training and leash training are two of the best places to start using positive reinforcement. This reinforcing stimulus helps your pup to learn where to go potty and how to walk politely on a leash.
You may also want to train your pup to do tricks. This is a great bonding opportunity with your new pup and helps them practice obedient behavior.
How is Positive Reinforcement used?
Positive reinforcement may feel like a big task. However, there are a few basic steps to help you begin encouraging new behaviors in your pup. Prepare your reinforcement schedules by setting aside an amount of time each day to practice this type of reinforcement with your dogs.
First, choose short, simple commands you want to teach your pup. You want to start with commands such as “sit” and “shake.” Eventually, you would want to move on practicing the many different commands, like “no,” “down,” and “off,” as well as other tricks.
Next, once your pup demonstrates a specific behavior, this is where positive reinforcement occurs. Immediately reward them with a treat and verbal praise. This should be done for any favorable response or positive behavior. Always remember that it is important that reinforcement occurs with just a short amount of time passing after the performance of the desired behaviors.
If you are housebreaking and your dogs relieve themselves outside, this behavior must be reinforced. This could be done by praising them, telling them they did a good job, and giving them a treat.
It is important to keep these work sessions short and fun to be effective. Positive reinforcement works by stimulating your pup to look forward to spending time with you and following your commands.
During the learning process, it is a good idea to keep treats nearby at all times. Even when you are not in an active training session, you would likely want to reward good behavior from your dogs.
Using treats that your pup loves is key to this type of reinforcement. You want to always attach verbal praise to the delicious treat. Every time your pup consistently issues the desired response to your commands (or stimulus), begin reinforcing such behavior with treats.
Your dogs will learn that they would still get verbal praise and sometimes treats. This learning will develop within them the reinforced and desired behaviors. Eventually, it will help them learn to do the right thing every time.
Why should I use Positive Reinforcement?
There are many benefits when you use positive reinforcement.
One of the biggest reasons positive reinforcement is good for you and your furry one is it helps strengthen your bond. Using this approach helps your dogs learn that you are trustworthy. It also means your pup will look forward to spending more time with you without fear of reprimand.
Another benefit of positive reinforcement is that your entire family can be part of the work process. If you have children in the household, they will love being able to give the pup treats when they see good behavior.
The third benefit to positive reinforcement is that your pup will eventually behave well when you are around and when you are gone. If you are always scolding your pup for doing bad things when you are away, such as peeing on the carpet or chewing up shoes, they may always show these behaviors while you are gone out of fear of being caught in the act.
However, if they know that when you come home and they have behaved, they get praise, it is likely your pup will work hard to get that positivity from you.
Where can I learn more about Positive Reinforcement?
There are a variety of books you can buy to help explain and advise you in training your pup using positive reinforcement. Here are a few books that may help you in this training process.
Training the Best Dog Ever is written by Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, who trained Obama’s White House dog, Bo. This book outlines a system of positive reinforcement that will help train your pup in 5 weeks.
If you are looking for a general read about positive reinforcement in all areas of life, including your pups, you may want to check out The Power of Positive Dog Training. This book gives an in-depth look at the positive tools that work in training your pup for a lifetime of happiness with your furry companion.
The Perfect Companion will help you better understand how your dog’s mind works. This book details step-by-step ways to help use positive reinforcement in training your dogs.
What about Dog Trainers?
If your dogs are not responding to your positive reinforcement, or you feel like you need more guidance, you may want to consider finding a pet trainer. Doing a Google search for “positive reinforcement dog trainers” in your area should bring up some options for you to choose from.
These trainers have many different approaches and techniques. Make sure you are searching for trainers that will reinforce good behaviors with positive responses. Many trainers also offer group classes. These classes are a great way for you to continue to work on bonding with your dogs through the process.
As with other dog training approaches, be patient and consistent.
Reinforcing your dogs to develop good behaviors is an important part of being a pet owner. Using positive reinforcement will help your dogs learn what you expect while still building a trusting relationship.
Positive reinforcement will mean a lot of yummy treats and “good dogs” and will be worth the effort!