Positive reinforcement training. Do you know what it is and why I’m talking about it? I don’t call myself a trainer. Even though I have dogs, I am far from an expert in their training.
I believe that if you have a dog in your life, you are always training. Why not do it effectively, so that they’ll want to do what you want them to? Positive reinforcement training lets your dog experience the rewards of doing the “thing” right.
What is this type of training?
Positive reinforcement training uses the idea that a positive reinforcer given after a task is performed correctly will increase the probability of the behavior being repeated. In other words, your dog learns that doing what you ask leads to getting something they want. That encourages to do it again the next time you ask.
Examples of positive reinforcement training
- Calling your dog to you and giving them a treat or other reward when they do it.
- Throwing the ball several times or otherwise playing after your dog goes potty outside as you’re training them to do.
How it works
Dogs learn that doing something you ask leads to something good for them. They want more of the something good, so they do what you ask again, and again, and again. That is using positive reinforcement. It takes time, but the more they learn that they benefit, the more likely they’ll be to do what you ask.
Do I have to be a trainer to use positive reinforcement?
You can learn to use this type of training. Whether you realize it or not, you’re in training mode any time you’re with your dog, anyway. For example, you train your dog to jump on you when you allow it. You didn’t mean to teach them that, but you accepted it so they learned it was ok.
Your dog doesn’t know that you aren’t intentionally training right now so “it” doesn’t count to you. Every action or lack of action can mean something to them. You can improve your relationship with them by being aware of all the possible training opportunities and not just the ones that you decide are training.
When you’re intentional, you can use positive reinforcement whenever you notice a behavior that you want more of. You can find opportunities to work with your dog all the time, instead of just when you’ve planned a training session.
If you have dogs, you have a certain responsibility. You need to help them succeed in their role, even if that’s just keeping you company. That means that you teach them the skills they need. Your life will be easier and so will theirs.
For more information about training and understanding your animals, here are a couple of references.
Read my post, Dog training from a trainer’s perspective for more about trying to work with your dog. My post about intentional dog training might also be helpful. Or read this post from Victoria Stilwell about her positive training techniques. This is a simple idea that really works if you remember to use it.
Tell me about your experiences with your dog in the comments below.