Train Your Pet with Positive Reinforcement - Arizona Humane Society

What is Positive Reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is the presentation of something pleasant or rewarding immediately following a behavior.

Positive reinforcement training has long been thought to be the most effective, long-lasting, humane and safest method in dog training. Not only is this method one of the most powerful tools for shaping or changing your pet’s behavior, good behaviors are more likely to occur in the future.  While we will refer to dogs in the information below, cats respond well to positive reinforcement as well. For your pet, positive reinforcement may include food treats, praise, petting or a favorite toy or game. Each time you reward your pet, you should couple it with a verbal praise like “good boy” in a positive, happy tone of voice.

When to give Positive Reinforcement?

Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward must occur immediately or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. Consistency is also essential. Consistency means always rewarding the desired behavior and never rewarding undesired behavior. When your pet is learning a new behavior, he should be rewarded every time he does the behavior. Remember: Everyone in the family should use the same commands. Positive Reinforcement You may be asking yourself, "How long do I have to give my dog treats?" As your pet becomes more reliable in their behavior, intermittent reinforcement can be used. At first, you may reward him with the treat three times out of four, then about half the time, then about a third of the time and so forth, until you’re only rewarding him occasionally with the treat. He will learn that if he keeps responding, eventually he’ll get what he wants. As you are training make sure to give verbal praise, like "good" or "yes", every time. Your pet will soon be working for your verbal praise.

Avoiding Punishment

Scruff shakes and “alpha rolls” are likely to result in bites. This type of training can have long-lasting negative side effects. It's also important to note that punishment might be associated with other stimuli, including people present at the time the punishment occurs. For example, a pet that’s punished for getting too close to a small child may become fearful of or aggressive to that child.

Accentuate the Positive

By understanding positive reinforcement,  you can work to build a great relationship with all the benefits of a well behaved pet.

Is it time to call in the professionals? AHS offers private dog training lessons and public dog training classes.

September 15, 2016

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