When training your dog and teaching him basic commands, positive reinforcement can be a highly beneficial tactic to use. Dogs love a good treat, so it is an effective way for them to learn behaviors that you want them to know. However, if positive reinforcement is used incorrectly, it can actually confuse your dog and lead him to pick up some bad habits without you even realizing. We’ve laid out a few simple rules for you and your dog to follow, to avoid confusion and have successful training sessions.
Timing is everything
Dogs have a fairly short attention span, so it’s important to reward them on “dog-time.” Be sure that the positive reinforcement happens immediately following the good action. This ensures that they know exactly which action you are happy with, and they will be likely to do it again in the future. A delayed reward could confuse them into associating the wrong action with the positive reaction. For example, if you tell your dog to sit and you wait to reward him until he stands, he will think that by “sit” you actually want him to stand. It is essential that they are able to understand which actions you are praising.
When to give treats
When using positive reinforcement, it’s important to know how often you should be treating your pet. After all, the end goal is to get him to do the behavior on his own out of instinct. When your pet is first learning a new behavior, you should use “continuous reinforcement,” rewarding him every time he does the behavior. As your pet starts to understand the behavior more, you should switch to intermittent reinforcement, reducing the number of times he gets a treat. For example, start with every 4 out of 5 times he gets a treat, then reduce to 3 out of 5, and so on until you’re only rewarding him occasionally. However, you can still continue to praise him every time with a “good boy,” to continue the reinforcement. You should also use a variable schedule of reinforcement, so your dog doesn’t catch on that he only has to respond every other time. He will learn that if he keeps doing the behavior, he will eventually get the reward that he wants.
Consistency is key when it comes to training your dog. If you reward your dog for staying off the furniture but invite him up on the couch to come cuddle later on, this will cause confusion. It is also important for everyone in your home to be on the same page about what is acceptable and what is not. Lay out ground rules for everyone to follow, and it will make for a much easier time training your pup.
Don’t Stop Correcting Your Dog
Although you are trying to remain positive and reward your dog for his good actions, it doesn’t mean you should stop correcting your dog when he does something bad. Just like a child, you need to teach them right from wrong. What you should do is separate “correction time” from “positive reinforcement time.” Mixing the two can get confusing for your dog. Choose a separate time and make sure he knows exactly which behaviors are acceptable.
Contact Canine College
Training your dog can be a difficult, but important task. If you need some professional pointers or help training your puppy contact Canine College. We offer both group and individual training to best suit you and your puppy’s needs! Fill out our contact form or call us directly at 781-767-3908!