Training your dog is probably one of the most important aspects of dog friendly living. A well-trained dog knows what is expected of them, knows to follow you for direction in a new environment, and knows their role in your family. This provides your dog with an invaluable sense of confidence and security.
Training activities keep your dog mentally stimulated and provide interaction with you. It promotes a healthy human-animal bond and builds communication. Your dog isn’t just learning to do what you say, you are also learning your dog’s cues, what they respond to, and learning how to spot sudden behavioral changes that may indicate an illness or other problem.
The most popular training method and the method that can be the most effective if used consistently is positive reinforcement. What is positive reinforcement, and why is it so good for your puppy? Let’s talk about positive reinforcement, why you should choose this training method, and how to find a trainer if you’re new to pup parenthood.
What Is Positive Reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement really is exactly what it sounds like. When your dog behaves in the way you want them to, whether through following commands or not barking at the doorbell, they are rewarded. Their reward doesn’t have to be food. You can also choose to reward your dog with cuddles or a favorite toy. The reward that you choose will depend upon your dog and what they love the most.
Overall, this training method sounds like it should be easy, but to truly be effective, the behavior needs to be rewarded immediately so your dog knows why they’re being praised. Positive reinforcement helps your dog recognize their desired behavior by associating it with something pleasant.
Rewarding so quickly and so often can be monotonous and does require quite a bit of patience. Don’t worry; eventually, a dog that is trained by positive reinforcement will respond to only verbal praise.
Positive reinforcement does not incorporate punishment for bad behavior. Punishment can be confusing to your dog. Punishment is not effective as a learning tool and can interrupt the learning process. Your dog may not know that their behavior is not correct, and by punishing them, they are learning to fear that behavior but not learning what they should do instead. Punishment can cause fear and distrust in your dog and break the bond you are trying to build. In extreme cases, punishment can even lead to aggression.
Why You Should Find A Positive Reinforcement Dog Trainer
You can train your puppy on your own, but it will take a lot of trial and error. Instead of taking it on by yourself, find a trainer who can work with you so you are training your pup in the most effective manner. Make sure you find a trainer that uses positive reinforcement so they can guide you in how to use it effectively.
Here are some helpful tips on what to look for when selecting a positive reinforcement trainer,
Timing is everything when it comes to training. A positive reinforcement trainer will be able to coach you on when to offer your dog a reward and how to not accidentally praise bad behavior.
They will explain dog behavior to you and help you understand how your dog communicates.
A positive reinforcement trainer will take time to get to know your dog and their background, quirks, and personality that make them so unique.
They will incorporate everyone in the household into the training sessions.
They will be patient with you as you learn to train your dog and help you understand the process.
Why Does a Puppy Need Positive Reinforcement Training?
If you have added a new puppy to your family, training should start right away. You need to begin to build trust and a bond with your puppy the minute you realize they’re coming home with you. Early training will help you learn your puppy’s personality and what drives or motivates them. Are they food motivated? Or do they respond better to a head scratch or tummy rub?
If you decide to enroll your puppy in a group class, this is a good chance for them to learn to socialize. Your puppy will learn to be comfortable with other dogs and will also learn some basic manners. Group classes are a great way to introduce your puppy to distractions. They will need to learn and listen to commands while there are other dogs present.
Remember, a puppy is just learning to navigate through the world. Beginning training early will help them learn desirable behaviors and form good habits. And early training will help them grow into a confident dog. The mental stimulation from consistent positive reinforcement training will help your puppy behave better since their brain is engaged, making those active puppy days a little calmer.
How To Start Positive Reinforcement Training
It’s never too late to start positive reinforcement training. It may take longer for an older dog to start to adapt, but eventually, they will show improvement in behavior if you show patience with them. If you want to get started before you enroll your dog in formal training classes, here are a few things to remember.
When working through commands, use short words, not full sentences. Your command will get lost in the extra words and confuse your dog.
If rewarding with food, give small treats or small pieces of a treat to avoid too many extra calories (and to save money on treats as you’ll go through quite a few).
Praise your dog verbally as well as with a treat.
Be consistent in the phrases you use for commands. Your dog can get confused if you are constantly using different words. For example, decide whether or not you’ll use the phrase “sit down” or “sit”.
If your dog is doing something desirable, like laying down when guests come over, reward them so they learn to repeat the behavior next time.
Do not reward negative behaviors, like feeding them when they’re barking at their empty dish. Undesirable behaviors should be completely ignored.
Rewards should be given immediately after the behavior is completed. Your dog needs to be able to associate the reward with the behavior.
Keep treats very handy in the early days of training so you can train yourself to be consistent about giving them.
There’s no doubt about it; positive reinforcement training is the best way to train your puppy. Looking for some guidance with positive reinforcement training? Let’s chat!