Why use Positive Reinforcement?

At It’s Not The Dog we believe Positive Reinforcement Training is the best way to train animals. Positive Training means you are rewarding the behaviours you like and ignoring the behaviours you do not like. You can use treats, praise, or life rewards (i.e. games, walks) to reward your dog's good behaviour.

Positive Training Enables Clear Communication with your Dog

Positive reinforcement allows you to communicate effectively with your dog. You chose the behaviour and let him know what you want by rewarding him when he does it. When you reward your dog for doing things correctly, he's more likely to repeat those good behaviours.

Punishment based training is not so clear. If we look at a common problem of housebreaking accidents. You scold your dog for urinating on the carpet or even smack him with a rolled-up newspaper. You believe you’re telling your dog that it's not acceptable for him to eliminate inside your home. Instead, your dog may learn that it's not safe to toilet when you’re around. The result may be that your dog has accidents when left alone, but never seem to catch him in the act. There's a communication problem here; fear is not an effective way for a dog to learn things properly.

With positive reinforcement, you can avoid this confusion. You want to teach your dog to eliminate outside rather than in your home. In this scenario, you reward the behaviour you want, which is going to the toilet outside. In this case, every time your dog eliminates outside, you give him lots of praise and treats or you can also reward him by giving him some playtime. Your dog quickly learns that good things happen when he toilets outside while nothing happens when he goes indoors. Your dog will soon be eliminating outside in an effort to reap the rewards. You've managed to clearly communicate with your dog.

Positive Train can be Fun and Reduce your Dog's Excess Energy

Dogs' with common behaviour problems can often be bored and under stimulated either physically or mentally. Training is a great way to have fun and reduce boredom. You’ll surprised at how much energy your dog will burn off by adding a few short, positive training sessions to his day.

Keep training sessions short and upbeat, and positive reinforcement training will be enjoyable for you and your dog. Once dogs recognize that training leads to lots of good things for them, they are keen to learn. Your dog will soon be offering you good behaviours in the hopes of getting his rewards.

You can Train a Variety of Behaviours with Positive Reinforcement

Using leash corrections or other forms of negative consequence punishment is not effective for every dog. Punishment can, in fact, make a behaviour problem worse. Aggressive dogs are one example of this; getting even more aggressive in the face of punishment. Fearful dogs also will not respond well to even the smallest punishment. A dog who is scared of certain people or situations may become even more fearful when punishment is used as a training method.

It strengthens your relationship with your dog

Our dogs are our friends and companions; part of our family. Positive reinforcement methods of training will reinforce we have with our dogs. Other training methods may teach your dog how to behave but positive reinforcement will help you lead your dog strengthening your relationship and gaining his trust. Your dog will enjoy your company if he's looking forward to being rewarded rather than fearing punishment. So, spending time on positive reinforcement methods of training is sure to strengthen your bond with your dog.

At It’s Not The Dog we understand that you have choices when it comes to training; here are some answers to the most Frequently Asked Questions about Positive Training potential disadvantages.

I Don’t Want to Bribe my Dog

We don’t want you to bribe your dog either. There is a big difference between bribing and reinforcing with food.

Bribery is the act of presenting the food to the dog in order to get the dog to perform a desired behaviour. Whereas reinforcing is the act of presenting something a dog finds valuable (food, toy, praise, etc.) after the dog has performed the behaviour. I like to think of it as being like my bonus scheme at work, something a little extra for working a little harder.

I Want My Dog To Respect Me, Not Just Work For Treats

Dogs that are punished into "submission" don't work out of respect, any more than the person who gives their bag to a mugger holds respect for the criminal. Force and intimidation may get a response, but it has nothing to do with respect, nor will it ensure a reliable response in the absence of a threat.

Who do we respect more: the boss who insists you work overtime without pay or the boss who recognizes your hard work and gives you an extra bonus in your pay at the end of the week? Who are we going to make the extra effort for? Who do we consider a good leader?

I'll Have To Keep Food On Me All The Time

In Positive Training rewards follow the behaviour, so the dog doesn't have to see the reward before complying. Once the dog has learned the behaviour is rewarding he will tend to perform the desired task in anticipation of a reward. In time the importance of food can be phased down and the use of other rewards such as affection or play can be increased.

Treat Trained Dogs Get Fat

Overfeeding causes obesity, not training treats. There is no rule that says dogs have to eat out of a bowl, owners can use the dog's entire meal as rewards during training, adding no additional calories to the dog's diet if required. In general dogs that are actively trained on a regular basis are ‘fitter’ than untrained dogs because training will use energy and muscles consistently.

My Dog Isn't "Food Motivated"

All animals must eat to survive and therefore we’ll all be naturally motivated by food. Generally, dogs are scavengers by nature and so every bit of food they can find is valuable.

However, when I meet a dog that refuses treats, it is usually because of one of the following reasons:

STRESS OR ANXIETY - When a dog reaches a certain level of stress due to either anxiety or aggression, they stop accepting food. This is the brain's way of making sure that all available energy is being used for essential functions in times of crisis. Digestion is not an essential function, so the brain shuts that part down.

LOW VALUE TREATS - The type of treat does matter. If your dog turns their nose up at a dry, crunchy biscuit, try a soft, smelly treat such as chicken or turkey hotdog.

SATIATION – Poor eaters can be encouraged to increase their motivation to food rewards if you limit and restrict their food intake prior to training.

ILLNESS - A common sign of illness is a dog that suddenly refuses food at home. Any dog that exhibits an abrupt change in appetite should visit their vet to rule out medical issues. One dog that appeared "picky" about food turned out to have multiple teeth that needed to be extracted!

Alternate Rewards – If your dog still isn’t motivated by food train by using toys or balls, playtime or affection.

While there are dogs who are less motivated by food than other types of rewards, they are incredibly rare.

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