POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

Purely positive reinforcement is a method popularized by trainers like Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz who trained the Obamas’ dog, Bo. The theory behind it is fairly straightforward. Dogs will repeat good behavior when it is followed by a reward. Bad behavior does not get a reward or acknowledgement. If punishment happens, it comes in the form of removal of rewards, like a toy or treat being taken away. Harsh reprimands or physical punishments aren’t needed. This training method begins with rewarding a behavior immediately, within seconds, after the desired behavior is achieved.

That way the dog comes to associate the behavior with the reward. Some trainers combine this method with clicker training to give the dog a distinct sign of the exact moment the behavior was completed. Commands also need to be short and to the point. Sit. Stay. Come. Positive reinforcement requires consistency, and everyone in your household needs to use the same commands and reward system. You should start with continuous rewards every time your dog does the right thing, then gradually move to intermittent rewards as the behavior becomes consistent.

A difficulty you might have is accidentally rewarding bad behavior, for example letting the dog outside when they start barking at a squirrel or another dog. Only wanted behaviors get rewards, which can include treats, toys, praise, and pets. It can also be easy to overfeed when your dog is learning, so use small treats when you are rewarding with food. This method is great for learning commands, but patience is required for correcting unwanted behaviors.