Postive Reinforcement in Dog Training

One of the most accurate quotes I have read in my recent canine studies is that if you put a handful of trainers in  a room, not one of them will agree with another completely.  In reading for classes and on my own, I have to say, this is the absolute truth.  I have not read a single book where the authors totally agree, they may agree on learning theory, but have deviations of what works best.  So I have come to the realization that nobody is going to tell me what is right (because there isn’t a right or wrong way), I have to make that determination on my own and understand that people, including many trainers, will disagree with me. 

I respect every opinion especially in the world of the dog, being that this is newer to me, and I try to learn as much as I can from each point of view.  I may not agree with everything, but I still consider it valuable  information.   Knowledge is power and the more you have the better position you are in.  So, that being said, I have learned that there are 2 basic training theories.  Compulsion (teaching dominance) and then there is Positive Reinforcement (rewarding good behavior). Not to say anything against compulsion training (it obviously works for Cesar Milan) but in just my short time in working with my dog particularly one who if fearful, I believe positive reinforcement is much more powerful.

So how does it work? Quite simple.  Reward Good Behavior.  For dog owners or parents, we all know that Bad behavior is way more noticeable than the good.  Think about it, Fido is laying nicely by the fireplace quiet and content, the only reason you know he’s there is because he’s beginning to fall asleep and snore.  What do you do?  Nothing.  It’s quiet and you don’t want to disturb him.  So his  “good” behavior is ignored.  Then, about 2 hours later Fido is now awake, grabbing your shoes, sliding into the kitchen on a full run and then pouncing on you as if he wants to dance.  What do you do?  Yell, tell him “no”, try to get him to stop, possibly chase him through the house.  In his mind, this is what he’s saying “ahahahahah, she’s playing with me, she’s playing with me, you can’t catch me, nah nah nah nah nah nah”.  It’s a game and Fido LOVES it.

Just like children, dogs are looking to please you, play and get as much attention as they can no matter how they get it.  So give your attention to them when they are exhibiting GOOD behavior.  When Fido is laying by the fireplace, kneel down next to him and give him a good belly rub, when the kids take his toy and he lets them, praise him, when he’s quiet when the neighborhood cat walks by, tell him good boy.  On the other hand, when he is out of control, IGNORE him.  As much as you can at least (you don’t want him to destroy anything or hurt anyone).  But if he jumps, cross your arms and turn your back, if he grabs your sock, ignore him, don’t chase cause that his favorite game, ignore him, he will eventually get bored because nobody is paying attention and drop it, then nonchalantly go get it.

If you don’t believe me, just try it, what can it hurt.  Praise the positive, Ignore the negative. It may take a little bit if he’s used to you yelling and chasing (“playing with him”), but be patient (it took my Goose about 6 months) it works.  Good Luck!

And don’t forget ADOPT DON’T SHOP! These babies need homes too:






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  1. What Everyone Should Know About Dog Training

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