There are a host of dog training philosophies floating around, each with its own, often-times vocal, champions. Our sitters/walkers at TLC House & Pet Sitting practice positive reinforcement training that uses rewards – be they treats or praise or play – to reinforce good behavior and ignore all bad behavior. Current thinking in the dog community considers positive reinforcement to be the longest lasting, most effective method for behavior modification in pets.
In practice, while walking and caring for dogs around Tempe 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.
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 of value from your pet – attention, toys or even companionship a “time-out”. Often shaping behavior will involve a vocal interrupter during a negative behavior to encourage the dog into choosing the right action.
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 called for, a method 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. 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 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.