Perhaps your family got a new puppy and are now faced with the need to train him to use the bathroom outside or to walk on a leash or to not jump on visitors in your home. Or, maybe you have an older pup who has always been leash-reactive or never learned basic commands, like “sit” or “come.”

Regardless of your dog-training needs and questions, the answer is positive reinforcement training. Here is everything you should know.

What is positive reinforcement training?

Remember how great it felt when your parents rewarded you for getting outstanding grades or for cleaning up your room without being asked? That reward or praise likely made you want to continue overachieving at school or keeping your room clean. In a sense, their praise or reward “trained” you to continue the behaviors they liked. That’s the idea behind positive reinforcement training. And it works for dogs, too.

To train your dog using the positive reinforcement method, you’ll use praise or treats to motivate him to do the behavior you desire.

How do you train your dog using positive reinforcement methods?

To ensure your dog associates the praise or reward with his good behavior, it’s important to do the following:
Keep commands short, like “sit,” “stay,” “off,” “come,” “leave it,” etc. Don’t use full sentences, which will only confuse your pup.
Reward your dog immediately after the good behavior (you can use a clicker to mark the behavior and then give the treat or praise), so he realizes the reward is because he did the specific behavior.
Be consistent. Everyone in your family should use the same commands and should reward your dog after the desired behavior.

If using treats to reward your dog, be sure to break them up into small pieces. The calories in treats can add up quickly, and you’ll go through a lot of them during the training process.

While your dog is learning the new command or behavior, reward him every time he does it. Once he’s learned it, you can gradually reduce the number of times he receives a treat for doing that particular behavior. But don’t decrease the rewards too quickly—that will frustrate your dog and could jeopardize his training.

Questions about training your furry friend? Call our office.