Remember how happy you were if your parents gave you a pound for every A on your school report? They made you want to do it again, right? That’s positive reinforcement.
Dogs don’t care about money. They care about praise … and food. Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do. Because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.
Rewarding your dog for good behavior sounds pretty simple, and it is! But to practice the technique effectively, you need to follow some basic guidelines.
Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement.
Dogs don’t understand sentences. “Daisy, I want you to be a good girl and sit for me now” will likely earn you a blank stare.
Keep commands short and uncomplicated. The most commonly used dog commands are:
Everyone in the family should use the same commands; otherwise, your dog may be confused. It might help to post a list of commands where everyone can become familiar with them.
Consistency also means always rewarding the desired behavior and never rewarding undesired behavior.
The good: Positive reinforcement is great for teaching your dog commands, and it’s also a good way of reinforcing good behavior. You may have your dog sit
Give him a pat or a “Good dog” for lying quietly by your feet, or slip a treat into a Kong®-type toy when he’s chewing it instead of your shoe.
The bad: Be careful that you don’t inadvertently use positive reinforcement to reward unwanted behaviors. For example, if you let your dog outside every time he barks at a noise in the neighborhood, you’re giving him a reward (access to the yard) for behavior you want to discourage.
It can take time for your dog to learn certain behaviors. You may need to use a technique called “shaping,” which means reinforcing something close to the desired response and then gradually requiring more from your dog before he gets the treat.
For example, if you’re teaching your dog to “shake hands,” you may initially reward him for lifting his paw off the ground, then for lifting it higher, then for touching your hand, then for letting you hold his paw, and finally, for actually “shaking hands” with you.
Positive reinforcement can include food treats, praise, petting, or a favorite toy or game. Since most dogs are highly food-motivated, food treats work especially well for training.
If your dog isn’t as motivated by food treats, a toy, petting, or brief play can be very effective rewards.
When your pet is learning a new behavior, reward him every time he does the behavior. This is called continuous reinforcement.
Once your pet has reliably learned the behavior, you want to switch to intermittent reinforcement, in which you continue with praise, but gradually reduce the number of times he receives a treat for doing the desired behavior.
Caution! Don’t decrease the rewards too quickly. You don’t want your dog to become frustrated.
By understanding positive reinforcement, you’ll see that you’re not forever bound to carry a pocketful of goodies. Your dog will soon be working for your verbal praise, because he wants to please you and knows that, occasionally, he’ll get a treat, too.
Source: The Humane Society