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  • Writer's pictureHilary Webster

Positive Reinforcement Training: Transform Your Dog’s Behaviour and Strengthen Your Bond

What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

Positive reinforcement (or reward based training) is a method of training dogs that involves reinforcing behaviour you want to see more of. For example: if you cue a “sit” and your dog receives a treat afterwards, they are more likely to perform a sit again. When using positive reinforcement training there should be no form of punishment being used. 'Punishment' can range from verbal “AH AH” to physicality. Telling your dog "no", does not actually tell your dog what we want from them at that moment; I think you’ll be happy to know you don't need to tell them "no" in order to see impressive behaviour!

Benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training

There are many benefits to using positive reinforcement, one of them being that your dog will feel more comfortable to offer behaviours. What do I mean by this? A dog that is used to being told “NO” or is physically punished for incorrect responses, can learn that it’s not safe to offer behaviours due to risk of punishment. What we see in reward based training is the dogs are less worried about getting it “wrong” and feel safe to offer new behaviour in hopes they might get it right. This creates a comfortable, curious and confident dog within the training session. Training with treats is also very likely to increase the quality of your relationship with your dog because they begin to see you as a treat dispenser versus a “heavy hand”.

Types of Positive Reinforcement

Types of reinforcement you can use include praise, toys and treats. Food is the easiest to use as a reinforcer because repetitions can be quick, and dogs are intrinsically motivated by food because they need it to survive. Toys can be a fantastic way to motivate some dogs; keep in mind repetitions will be longer so training sessions may be extended. Praise is another way to use positive reinforcement but I would say it is less common to see a dog that is truly motivated by praise alone. When choosing a reinforcement method, make sure you are actually motivating your dog. Assess your dog in the moment to discover what's truly a motivator for them. If we can use what motivates our individual dog then, then we will get results fast.

Try giving your dog a treat when they do something you like; watch your dog's behaviour improve and your bond get even stronger!

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