Why is it important that you use positive reinforcement (+R) when teaching your dog life skills? Firstly what does positive reinforcement mean?
It basically means is adding a reinforcer (food) to make the likelihood of that behaviour happening again, for example your dog sits you give them a reward then when asked in the future that behaviour will be offered. This works for all manner of training and behaviour issues. Rewards don’t always have to be food either. Sometimes it’s a pet (if your dog likes that, access to toys, a good game of tug, or even for nervous dogs it can be removing what makes them stressed that is the reward.
Positive trainers will sometimes use a negative; this doesn’t mean that we punish the dog. We use what is called a negative punishment (-P). Which means the dogs behaviour makes something good go away so the behaviour decreases, for example dog jumps up to say hello you walk away removing your attention then jumping up decreases ( be sure to make a fuss of them if they sit instead!!!). Or another good example is your dog pulls on the leash so you stop moving, wait until he offers you a loose leash and then reward and move on.
Food rewarding is essential as scientists have proven time and time again that this is the most effective and humane way to teach (notice how I didn’t say train!). Food is an essential item to your dog so it is a primary reinforcer; we will add a secondary reinforcer (clicker) so that you can mark behaviour the second the dog offers a good behaviour and then back it up with a tasty treat! This means the dog understands exactly what the reward was for and you can reduce the treats quickly so you are rewarding rather than bribing.
It’s also good to refrain from using verbal punishments like NO or AH AH. We need to teach your dog what we want him to do rather than what we don’t want him to do. If however down the line you want to introduce a no reward marker then make it a word you won’t use that often in conversation and make it upbeat rather than intimidating. I find oops works great.
A few things to remember to keep you on the right track.
ALL LIVING BEINGS REPEAT BEHAVIOURS THAT ARE REWARDING AND AVOID BEHAVIOURS THAT ARE NOT
Remember this one, you can teach your dog any behaviour you want him to do and change any behaviour that you don’t want. You do not have to punish your dog in order to make behaviour “non rewarding”. You just have to figure out how to make the right behaviour more rewarding.
YOUR DOG ALREADY KNOWS EVERYTHING YOU ARE GOING TO TEACH HIM
Your dog already knows how to sit, stand, walk etc. All you are going to do is teach him the English words for those behaviours and make them rewarding and fun for him. Of course he always has a choice but if you’re a good trainer you will program a pattern of responses in his brain that makes him want to do them and will chose to do them when asked.
DOGS CAN LEARN ONLY ONE BEHAVIOUR FOR ANY CUE
Dogs don’t understand that a word can have several different meanings. For the best success get everyone in the family to agree on which cues go with which behaviours, make sure that everyone uses them consistently.
THINK IN TERMS OF WHAT YOU WANT HIM TO DO, NOT WHAT YOU DON’T WANT HIM TO DO
This speaks for itself!!!!! I so often hear people say “I don’t wan
t my dog to rush the door” or “I don’t want my dog to pull on leash”. It always makes me wonder if the owner believes the dog does it deliberately just to annoy them. Always better to think “I want my dog to sit on a mat when I open the door” or “It would be lovely if he walked next to me”.
Well that’s a little brief explanation of why we do what we do.
Until next time. Thank you for reading and remain positive X