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What is positive reinforcement, and how to use it in dog training?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Brindle bull dog practicing high five
Tyson practicing high five and patty cake during his board and train program.

Positive reinforcement is a type of dog training that focuses on rewarding good behaviour and reinforcing it with a treat, praise, or other positive reinforcement. The techniques used in positive reinforcement training are based on the principle that dogs are more likely to repeat rewarded behaviours. Here are a few positive reinforcement techniques that can be used for dog training:

Food: Treats or their daily food like kibble are a great way to reward good behaviour. You can use small, high-value treats to reward your dog for performing a desired behaviour. High-value treats are food your dog enjoys the most, something smelly and juicy, such as freshly cooked meat, or cheese. Treats can be given immediately after the behaviour is performed and phased out as the behaviour becomes more consistent.

Praise: Verbal praise is another effective positive reinforcement technique. You can use words such as "good dog" or "well done" to praise your dog for performing a desired behaviour. Praise should be given immediately after the behaviour is performed and can be paired with food/treats or affection for added reinforcement.

Clickers: Clicker training is a popular positive reinforcement technique that uses a small, handheld clicker to mark the desired behaviour. You click the clicker when your dog performs the behaviour and immediately give them a treat. This helps the dog to understand what behaviour is being rewarded.

Play: Dogs love to play and can be used as a positive reinforcement technique. Playing with your dog after they perform a desired behaviour can be a great way to reward them and reinforce the desired behaviour. The next time you play with your dog, ask yourself… what are you rewarding?

Social Reinforcement: Dogs are social animals, and they enjoy the company of their owners; social reinforcement is a great way to reward good behaviour by spending time with your dog, giving them cuddles, and playing with them.

It's important to note that positive reinforcement training should be done in a way that is positive and fun for both the dog and the trainer; avoid using physical punishment or verbal aggression when using these techniques, as it can cause fear, and confusion and may even lead to defensive behaviour.

What is negative reinforcement, and will it harm my dog?

Negative reinforcement removes a reinforcement if the dog does not perform the desired behaviour. An example would be removing the food, toy or opportunity to play and not praising or providing affection. Negative reinforcement can create frustration for your dog, and it is important to use far more positive than negative reinforcement in dog training.

Positive and negative punishment uses averse methods that are not used by #CareyTrainsMe

For questions regarding reinforcement training and effective methods to train your dog, contact

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