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Using reinforcement while training a dog is the best way to get your dog to obey you and carry out commands, but the reinforcement has to be positive!

Positive reinforcement training is very crucial in training animals, very crucial in such a way that it is regarded as the best way of training animals and it is applicable to even wild animals.

Proponents of positive reinforcement swear by the effectiveness of their techniques, and it is true that the vast majority of dogs respond well to these training methods.

How does it work?

Positive reinforcement is simply rewarding your dog with food, praise, toys or attention right after it performs the intended behavior (eg sitting).

When teaching a new behaviour, food is often used because it is quick and effective.

By doing so, you are increasing the likelihood of the behavior occurring again.
It works, is easy to use and does lesser harm than the alternative training; by punishment.

As mentioned, food is positively reinforcing and therefore is a valuable training tool.

To properly use food, you must establish the behavior to the point that the dog understands what behavior it must perform on its own in order to earn reinforcement, and then, you must quickly begin weaning away the food as discussed above.

Because food is so successful in getting behavior, many dog owners become too dependent on it and do not reduce and eliminate it soon enough.

Thus, dogs can learn to only respond when food is present.

Rewarding your dog for good behavior sounds pretty simple, and it is! However, to practice the technique effectively,
you need to follow some basic guidelines:

  • Timing

Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward should be given immediately after an action; within seconds or your pet may not associate it with the proper action.

For example, if you have your dog sit but reward him after he’s stood back up, he’ll think he’s being rewarded for standing up.

Using a clicker to mark the correct behavior can improve your timing and also help your dog understand the connection between the correct behavior and the treat.

  • Keep it short

Dogs don’t understand sentences. Keep commands short and uncomplicated. The most commonly used dog commands are “sit”, “stay”, “down”, “come”, “heel” and “leave it”

  • Consistency is key

Everyone in the family should use the same commands; otherwise, your dog may be confused. It might help to post a list of commands where everyone can become familiar with them.

Consistency also means always rewarding the desired behavior and never rewarding undesired behavior.

Reward

One reason that positive reinforcement training is so effective is that it uses rewards to teach the dog what is expected of it.

When the dog performs the desired behavior, he is provided with a reward, most often in the form of a food treat, but it could be a scratch behind the ears, a rub under the chin or a pat on the head as well, or toys.

The important thing is that the dog is rewarded consistently for doing the right thing.

When understanding what makes reward training so effective, some knowledge of the history of humans and dogs is very helpful.

The earliest dogs were probably wolf pups that were tamed and used by early humans for protection from predators, like alarm systems and later for guarding and herding livestock.

It is possible that the wolf pups that made the best companions were the most easily trained, or it is possible that these early dogs were orphaned or abandoned wolf pups.

Hierarchy, The Pack Leader

Wolf packs, like packs of wild dogs, operate on a strict pack hierarchy. Since wolf and dog pack hunt as a group, this type of hierarchy, and the cooperation it brings, is essential to the survival of the species.

Pack Rules :

  • Every dog in the pack knows his or her place in the pack, and except in the event of death or injury, the hierarchy, once established, rarely changes.
  • Every dog, therefore, is hard-wired by nature to look to the pack leader for guidance.
  • The basis of all good dog training, including reward-based training, is for the handler to set him or herself up as the pack leader.
  • The pack leader is more than just the dominant dog or the one who tells all the subordinates what to do.
  •  The pack leader provides leadership and protection, and his or her leadership is vital to the success and survival of the pack.
  • It is important for the dog to see itself as part of a pack, to recognize the human as the pack leader, and to respect his or her authority.

A dog with a more submissive personality will generally be easier to train using positive reinforcement since he or she will not want to challenge the handler for leadership.

Clicker

When clicker training is combined with positive reinforcement, you get the best dog training section.

Clicker training is all about reward and association – the clicker is designed to signal to your dog that he or she has done something good or to signal response from your dog. This kind of training is often much more rewarding than traditional dog training methods.
Click here for more information about Clicker Training 

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