Positive reinforcement training is one of the best ways to teach your dog new behaviors and tricks; especially when it comes to obedience training exercises. By nature, dogs repeat positive behavior that they are rewarded for doing. For example, if you reward your dog for the “stay” command by giving him a treat, he will likely listen to the command in the future as he has created a positive association with the command.
This is why positive reinforcement training has become one of the most effective training methods when it comes to dog training. When it comes to training your dog, no matter what training method you are using, consistent training is required in addition to patience on your part. To be successful in training your dog through positive reinforcement training, you need to engage in lots of practice and ensure your dog has an accurate understanding of what you are asking him to do.
Finding A Good Reward
When it comes to positive reinforcement training, you need to ensure your dog is excited about the reward he is receiving. If your dog thinks that the treat you are giving him is boring, you will not be reinforcing anything by using the treat in your training. It is important to ensure that you choose a reward that is something your dog gets excited about.
In addition to providing your dog with his favorite treats as a reward, you can also provide your dog with additional praise, his favorite toys, or even some physical activity if he enjoys this. These positive rewards create a positive association with the training session and make it so your dog will learn the given activity at a much faster pace compared to other training methods.
If you choose a reward that your dog does not like, it may lead to an unsuccessful training session. If your dog does not like the reward, he will likely not want to engage in the training session in the future. You must ensure you reward your dog with something that he likes. Many dogs do not necessarily enjoy being pat on the head, so you may not want to use this as your positive reinforcement. Instead, use something that your dog gets excited about.
One of the best ways to determine what your dog’s favorite rewards are is to make a list of his favorite items. Then, start to sort your list by your dog’s favorite rewards to his least favorite rewards. For example, if your dog really enjoys a certain toy, put that at the top of the list. Once you have created a sorted list, you should choose items at the top of the list to use in the positive reinforcement training sessions.
You should never use physical punishment as a tool to teach your dog to refrain from certain behavior. Negative punishment will only lead to further behavior problems and cause your dog to develop aggressive behavior.
Immediate Praise and reward
One of the most important things when it comes to positive reinforcement training is to reward your dog with immediate praise or a treat that you have selected. Dogs are creatures that live in the present moment and need a positive reward immediately to associate that positive reward with the given command that it just completed.
For example, if you are training your dog to go to the bathroom outside, you must reward him with his favorite treat or food reward immediately after he successfully goes to the bathroom in the correct location. Your dog will begin to associate the behavior with a positive experience and continue to engage in this behavior in the future.
Keep the Command and Training short
Unlike people, dogs are unable to understand long and complex sentences. Therefore, you must ensure that the command that you are giving your dog is simple and short. For example, do not try to teach your dog to sit by saying “Max, can you please sit and be a good boy for me.” This will only lead to your dog being confused and unable to successfully learn the behavior. Instead, keep the command very short and simple but using the phrase “sit.”
Dogs learn best through body language. So, first, work on encouraging your dog to “sit” or “lay down” before even saying the word. For example, when you are teaching your dog to “sit,” hold a treat over the dog’s head and have your dog look at the treat. Slowly move your hand over the dog’s head and move it behind his head, so he has to sit to look up at the treat. Once your dog has performed the commanded behavior, you can start introducing the word “sit” in a calm voice. Then immediately provide your dog with his favorite treat. With consistency and patience, your dog will begin to associate the “sit” command with a positive experience and be more likely to engage in the behavior in the future.
In addition to short training, be sure that you are consistent with the command. Be sure that if different members of your family are training your dog that you are using consistent phrases and commands. Everyone should use the same cues, or your dog will become confused and be unable to successfully complete the training. In addition, consistently also includes rewarding the desired behavior right away and never rewarding an undesired behavior with a treat or praise.
When to give your dog a treat or when to stop
When your pet is learning a new behavior or command, you should reward them every time that they successfully demonstrate the behavior. This continuous reinforcement creates a positive association with the command. Once your dog is able to successfully complete the command, you can begin changing the number of times you offer a reward.
Once your dog is able to complete the command, you can begin to only reward the dog for the command only four out of five times. Over time, you can begin to decrease the number of times you reward the dog with a treat until you are only rewarding the dog infrequently. However, you should still continue to praise the dog every time they successfully complete the command to ensure they maintain a positive association with the task. This can be either a thorough pet or some verbal praise. With consistent positive reinforcement training, you can begin to change unwanted behavior and teach your dog to listen to given commands.