Guide to Dog Training: Positive Reinforcement Training

Guide to Dog Training: Positive Reinforcement Training

Throughout this series, we bring you descriptions of various types of dog training.  In this installment we will discuss positive reinforcement training, as well as the benefits to this practice.
Training tips

What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

If you are unfamiliar with the term “positive reinforcement training,” you might recognize one of its many pseudonyms: science-based training, reward-based training, pain-free training, or force-free training. In positive reinforcement dog training, a dog is given a reward such as a treat, toy, praise, playtime, or other exciting stimuli when the animal offers a desirable behavior. Years of research have concluded that animals will continue to repeat positive behaviors when rewarded, and avoid ones that elicit no response. 

Benefits of Positive Reinforcement Training

The benefits of positive reinforcement training are diverse.
They include:

Family Inclusion
With aversive techniques, such as use of a choke chain or shock collar, only adults who are trained in the proper use of these tools should train an animal.  However, with positive reinforcement training, everyone in the family can be involved. 

Better Communication
Animals are more confident when they have a clear idea of which behaviors are rewarded, as opposed to the uncertainty over which behaviors are punished.  This style of training helps you and your dog develop a language for communicating with one another beyond simple commands such as “sit” or “stay.” 

Useful in all Training Situations
Unlike aversive training, positive reinforcement techniques can be used for any type of dog training situation.  For instance, you would never use a shock collar to teach your dog to sit; whereas rewards-based methods have been proven useful in situations ranging from basic obedience to the rehabilitation of aggressive animals. 

Works on Puppies
Dog training should begin as soon as possible.  However, aversive techniques require that a dog be strong enough to withstand correction, as well as have the mental capacity to make connections about cause and effect.  With positive reinforcement techniques, dog training can begin immediately.  Indeed, puppies can be taught rudimentary commands such as “sit,” “come,” and “stay.”

Recommended by Professionals
Reward-based training is the most commonly recommended type of dog training by veterinarians, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society.  When not used properly, aversive techniques can cause physical and psychological harm to animals, such as increased fear and aggression, burns (from electronic collars), cuts (from prong collars) or tracheal damage (from choke chains).

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Please note: all dogs should be treated as individuals. The Actijoy blog is for educational and entertainment purposes only. In case of emergency, always seek qualified healthcare from a local veterinarian or emergency facility. Actijoy blogs are not designed to treat, diagnose, or prescribe medication for your pet. 

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