Training dogs using positive reinforcement and reward training has long been seen as both tremendously effective for the owner and a positive experience for the dog. Positive reinforcement training is so effective that it is among the main methods used to train wild animals like lions and tigers for work in circuses and in the movie and television industry.
Regardless of what type of dog you are working with, chances are it could be helped with positive reinforcement training methods. Basing you training methods on respect and trust, instead of on intimidation and fear, is the best technique to get the most from any dog.
Reward training has become increasingly popular recently, but chances are some kind of reward training between people and dogs has been occurring for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Advocator’s of positive reinforcement speak of the efficiency of the technique, and it is true that the vast majority of dogs react well to these training methods. One reason that positive reinforcement training is so effective is that is uses rewards to teach the dog what is expected of it, rather than discipline when not behaving well. 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. The important thing is that the dog is rewarded consistently for doing the right thing. Some decades ago, these methods where regarded as “soft”. It is true that some “punishment based” training methods might give quicker results. But the dog will in most cases not trust their owner, and display a more guarded behavior rather than seeking contact with its owner. All dogs have different “triggers” that they respond to. At the moment I have three dogs, two are very active and their reward is often a toy that we play with. The third one is less active and gets some sort of food as reward. You know your dog, and should test what it responds to. Positive reinforcement on abused dogs. Positive reinforcement is also the best way to retrain a dog that has behavior problems, especially one that has been abused in the past. Getting the trust and respect from an abused dog could be really tough, and positive reinforcement may be the only reliable approach to use in this process. Abused dogs are often used to humans behaving inconsistent, giving punishment and reward for the same behavior at different times. Once the dog grasp that desired behavior gets rewarded, and unwanted behavior will never result in anything, they quickly attempt the behavior they know will give them a reward, instead of continuing the unwanted behavior. One example of this: Your dog jumps up on people entering your home. You have trained your dog to sit, and it gets a reward when it sits. Have a visitor you know is up for the task come over.
Instruct him/her to enter your home as normal. When your dog jumps up, have your visitor completely ignore the dog, if necessary go outside, and start over.
What we want to achieve is to have the dog sit before it gets to great the visitor. After some repetitions the dog will realize that jumping gives no result, and will start to try other behaviors to get attention. When the dog sits, immediately reward it. One tip to make this easier is to practice sitting before the visitor enters. Remember that you know that there’s someone outside the door Going back to training abused dogs, always do the training in a controlled environment. The environment also includes humans. In the example above, the visiting person is an important part of the environment. You can use positive reinforcement on every aspect of dog training, starting out from when you receive a new puppy, or if you want to learn you dog new tricks. The result will be a happy, active dog that will want to be together with all day long.