Dogs love to please their owners; this is the “nature of the beast”, so to speak. You are to a dog, the “pack dog leader”. The dog looks up to you for guidance. When you speak in harsh tones the dog knows that he/she has displeased you.
When you hit a dog or physically punish a dog, the dog learns to be fearful of you and other humans. When you praise your dog and give the dog healthy dog treats you reinforce in a positive way which behaviors you are pleased that the dog is doing.
This positive praise and positive reward that you give to your dog upon successfully figuring out what you want the dog to do, is called: Positive Reinforcement.
In order to understand dog training by using positive reinforcement take a moment to think about any job experience that you have had in which your boss did nothing but yell or bark orders at you. How did you respond to this type of “training”?
Now, think about any job or task that you had to learn either at a job or at school in which you had a teacher or boss give you praise or a reward for learning something the way they wanted you to learn it.
How did you feel after receiving praise or a reward? Which experience made you want to continue to behave the way the leader or boss wanted you to willingly? I bet you selected the boss or teacher that gave you praise or a reward for doing what they wanted you to do!
This is the way that most of us humans would prefer to be trained and treated by others who are in authority to us.
Our dogs are no different than we are when it comes to how they want to be treated by the individual that they understand to be their dog pack leader – you!
Your dog training efforts will be met with greater success and be more pleasurable for you and the dog if you use positive reinforcement tactics instead of physical punishment as a training tool.
There are two basic elements to using positive reinforcement as a dog-training tool. The first element is to have correct timing and the second element is consistency.
Praise or Reward Immediately
Correct timing is when you give the praise or reward immediately (within 20 seconds) of the dog responding to a command in the manner that is correct. You need to be careful to have the praise or treat follow immediately after the behavior AND more importantly before the dog starts to do any other behavior.
The praise or reward needs to follow the behavior you are training the dog to do and not another behavior.
If you are training the dog to sit and before you can praise or give the reward the dog has already changed body position to a stand or walk and this is when the praise or reward is given; the dog will get the message that you are giving the praise or reward for the behavior being done at the time the praise or reward is given and not for the first behavior which is the one you were training the dog to do.
Make sure that the praise is ready on your lips or the treat is already in your hand before you give the command so that you can immediately give it to the dog as soon as the dog completes the behavior.
Consistency Avoids Confusion
Consistency means that you and every member of the family uses the same command words for the same desired behavior in the dog. Consistency avoids confusion for the dog.