Positive Reinforcement Dog Training Is Often Misunderstood
Among all the different methods available, positive reinforcement dog training is perhaps one of the most misunderstood. Unfortunately, that misunderstanding sometimes leads to permissiveness and/or misdirection that can not only slow down progress, but actually reverse any good training and make it far more difficult to do proper training.
What Positive Reinforcement Training Is Not
With the confusion surrounding positive reinforcement lessons, it’s often best to begin describing it by outlining what it is not.
- It Is Not Just About Treats: One common misconception is that the constant use of treats as a reward for good behaviour constitutes positive reinforcement. While treats or food can be one of the stimuli used to recognize good behaviour, they cannot be the only reward and they must be used properly. Giving your pet his absolute favourite treat after the slightest good act will limit the effectiveness of the training.
- It Is Not Complete Permissiveness: It is perhaps better to not train a dog at all than to let him have just about anything he wants. Your pet thrives on having behavioural boundaries and knowing what is expected of him in the pack, which is your family.
- It Is Not All Affirmative: It may be where a lot of the confusion begins, but, to help set your dog’s boundaries and to help him truly appreciate the positive parts of the training, not every part of it can be affirmative. There’s nothing wrong with saying “no”.
What Is Positive Reinforcement Training?
It’s a system of using reinforcers, or rewards, that are aligned with a dog’s natural drives, including food, play, prey and pack drives, to train your him or her to make the right choices.
It is important to differentiate between “reward” and “bribe”. Rewards are given after the right action has been taken and they are in line with the level of accomplishment – you’re not going to give your pet a big juicy steak for performing a “sit”. Rewarding inordinately will undermine your efforts.
Using positive reinforcement can produce astounding results without fear of harming your dog physically or emotionally – unless it is not done properly. If you are interested in using it to teach your dog, it is best to consult a professional.