The Importance of Positive Reinforcement in Pet Training

Professional trainers are moving away from dated training techniques and are focusing on positive reinforcement. It’s ethical, it achieves permanent results, and it strengthens the bond between owner and pet. In this article, we’ve taken a look at the science behind reward-based training.

The Psychology behind Positive Reinforcement

Decades ago, trainers used heavy-handed techniques to apply what they thought they knew about animal behaviour. However, we now know that dogs respond poorly to dominating, fearful methods of training and become aggressive around their owners. Positive reinforcement is a psychological method that even works to sculpt behaviour in humans and it is definitely the future of dog training.

Positive training techniques use non-confrontational methods to mould a dog’s brain by rewarding desired behaviours, cementing routines, and training complex actions. By rewarding good behaviour and ignoring bad behaviour, there is less chance the dog will feel anger and frustration in the training process. Dogs learn that good things will occur if they do the things their owner likes.

Strengthening Owner-Pet Relationships

Giving a dog the skills to live happily with humans takes consistent guidance from the earliest age possible. If you reinforce a dog’s good behaviour, the chance of it indulging in negative actions lessens greatly and you are left with a more confident, happy canine. Confident, comfortable dogs do not show anxiety, stress or aggression.

Training without force will strengthen a dog’s trust in its owner. Cooperation and kindness, as opposed to dominance and submission, creates stronger relationships. Using positive reinforcement will establish a solid, healthy connection in which your dog will be happier, better behaved and more inclined to obey new orders.

How to Positively Reinforce Good Behaviour

  • Immediately reward desired actions – each moment has to be used effectively as dogs are impulsive creatures. Use treats or affection while immersing yourself in the reward experience. Reward your dog every time they do what you say.
  • Wean off treats – they’re useful in the beginning but should not be necessary for long periods of time. Associating the treat with a sound or action means your dog will still respond to that command after the treats are taken away.
  • Keep it fun – the goal is to teach your dog that obeying your orders will result in good things so make the training short and fun, ending it on a good note wherever possible.
  • Keep it simple – use short, one-word commands and be specific.
  • Be consistent – make sure everyone in the household has clear rules for your dog and doesn’t confuse them by allowing a behaviour some of the time.
  • Don’t stop correcting your dog – positive reinforcement doesn’t mean never being able to say “no” to your pet. If a dog is acting inappropriately, you should still correct this behaviour to prevent it from reoccurring.

For any inquiries or to learn about beginning a certificate III in dog obedience, contact the NDTF online or call 1300 66 44 66.