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  • Writer's pictureKarley

What are the benefits of positive reinforcement during training?

Training can be a challenging goal to accomplish when welcoming a new dog into your home, regardless of their age. If there is a pro tip any person can take away from dog trainers, it would be to incorporate positive reinforcement throughout your training routine.


Here are 4 ways you can incorporate positive reinforcement:


Rewards-

Just like humans, dogs respond well to rewards! Rewards can come in many forms, like treats, encouraging, soothing words, cuddling, or even toys. The better you know your dog, the better idea you may have of what would motivate your dog to learn new routines or behaviors. According to The Humane Society, "food treats work especially well for training" because many dogs are food-motivated. The treats "should be enticing and irresistible to your pet" to get the highest level of motivation from your pet.


Quick Timing-

According to the American Kennel Club, you should "make sure you deliver your rewards as quickly as possible after your dog has performed the behavior you want to reinforce." The reason is that you want to prevent confusion about what behavior they should be performing. For example, if you offer a dog a treat when they come back in the house after doing their business, how does the dog know the treat is for going to the bathroom outside rather than walking back into the house? Quick timing with rewards, especially at the start of training, ensures that certain behaviors are being clearly communicated as desirable.


Short Commands-

Dogs don't understand sentences, but dogs do learn first from body language. First work on encouraging your dog into a "sit" or "down" position before incorporating the word. The Human Society recommends that"Once your dog is performing the behavior consistently, start adding the word “sit” or “down” in a calm voice and try not to repeat the word. Keep verbal cues short and uncomplicated."


Consistency-

To further ensure a successful understanding of desired behaviors, all members of the family should participate in using positive reinforcement cues. If you use treats or a toy, have other family members attempt to get the dog to perform the desired behavior with the reward. If you use verbal cues or cuddling, have them also use these rewards! Switching rewards or cues may contribute to confusion, so make sure all people are on the same page for what behaviors are desirable and how you communicate with your dog.


A common question may be "Am I stuck giving treats forever?"

When your pet is learning a new behavior, Eileen and Dogs recommend that you reward them every time they demonstrate that behavior. This is called continuous reinforcement. Once your pet has reliably learned the behavior, you want to switch to intermittent reinforcement.


-At first, reward with a treat four out of five times they do the behavior. Over time, reward three out of five times, and so on, until they're only rewarded occasionally. Don't decrease the rewards too quickly or your dog could become frustrated or confused.


-Continue to praise every time--although once your dog has learned the behavior, your praise can become less exciting.


-Vary how often you provide the reward so that your dog doesn't figure out that they only have to respond every other time, for example. Your pet will soon learn that if they keep responding, eventually they will get what they want--your praise and an occasional treat.





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