There are a host of dog training philosophies, each with their own, often-times vocal, champions. Our sitters and walkers at TLC House & Pet Sitting practice positive reinforcement training that uses rewards. Rewards are in the form of treats or praise or play to reinforce good behavior and ignore all bad behavior. Most in the dog community consider positive reinforcement to be the most effective method for behavior modification in pets.
Positive Reinforcement in Practice
In practice, while walking and caring for dogs, this means keeping commands short and uncomplicated. Your dog is looking for consistency and the desired behavior must be rewarded immediately every time the proper action is performed.
Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
At the same time, it is critical with positive reinforcement training to never reward undesired behavior. Rather than doling out punishment, unwanted behavior from your dog is dealt with by withholding something from your pet. Withholding attention, toys or even companionship in the form of a “time-out” are good options. Finding what works best for your dog is key. Often shaping behavior will involve a vocal interrupter during a negative behavior to encourage the dog into choosing the right action.
Use Treats Wisely
Our sitters/walkers come to know what your dog loves as a reward. It can be a walk or maybe just a hearty belly rub. Most dogs love their treats and it is important to know how to handle food rewards during positive reinforcement training. When first working with a dog to illicit a new behavior, a treat every time the action is performed is known as continuous reinforcement. Always accompany the handing out of food with robust praise.
Once your pet is demonstrating consistent performance of the behavior it is time to cut back on the rewards. See our previous post about ‘Too Many Dog Treats‘. Instead of a treat every time, withhold the treat – but not the praise – once out of every five repetitions. Then twice, then three times and so on. Mix up this intermittent reinforcement pattern so as not to frustrate your dog. Keep up the praise but dial down the excitement level to a “this-is-what-we-expect” tone of “good dog.”
Positive Reinforcement Training Pays Dividends
Positive reinforcement in this fashion requires patience but with time your dog will become the solid canine citizen we all want our pets to be. And he will be doing it because he is getting what he wants out of the bargain – your praise and admiration and a tasty morsel every now and then.
For More Information
If you have questions about this topic or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at email@example.com. View more of our articles on pets here.