What is Positive Reinforcement (And Why Is It The Only Way To Train)?
It wasn’t that many years ago that it was commonplace for dog training to be centred around instilling ‘obedience’ into a dog – by any means necessary.
Commands were shouted, and dogs were punished verbally - and even physically - if they failed to comply.
This type of dog training wasn’t based on trust, or a well-earned bond. It was based on fear and intimidation.
Thankfully, things have moved on and most people and trainers now train using positive methods.
What is positive reinforcement?
In the simplest terms, positive reinforcement training is reward-based training.
It means reinforcing behaviours we want by offering desirable outcomes (praise, a treat or a play with an interactive training toy). With this method, our dogs quickly learn that good things happen when they do things we like.
What’s the science behind it?
Positive reinforcement has been scientifically proven to help dogs learn through the consequences of their behaviour in a non-confrontational way that they easily understand.
Scientific studies have shown that dogs trained using positive reinforcement are more obedient, less fearful and less likely to show problem behaviours, like aggression.
In fact, punishment based training (or ‘negative reinforcement’) has been shown to negatively affect both the physical and mental health of dogs.
Of course, punishment doesn’t always mean being cruel. It can mean shouting, growling, yanking on a lead or acting in a way that a dog finds intimidating.
Guide dogs for the blind, bomb disposal dogs and search and rescue dogs do incredible work – and they were all trained using positive reinforcement. That’s because positive training methods with dogs work faster and are more effective – fact!
If you want to make your positive reinforcement training even more effective, here are three things to try…
1. Boost your bond. Spend quality time playing with their favourite tug toy and cuddling your dog. It will foster a mutual understanding of each other that will pay off during training. Get our expert guide here for FREE!
2. Find out what motivates them. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s real fur. Maybe it’s a tennis ball. Whatever it is, once you’ve discovered it you’ll have the tools you need to create high-value rewards they’ll work harder for.
3. Be patient. Don’t rush or push your dog into anything they aren’t comfortable with. Take your time and always offer heaps of encouragement.
What are your top tips for using positive reinforcement? Share them in the comments!