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Any good dog trainer will tell you that the key to successful training is positive reinforcement. What do the words positive and negative reinforcement mean, and how do you make sure that you’re always keeping it positive around your dog…even when you’re frustrated or in a bad mood? Here’s what you need to know to accentuate the positive!
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
According to the experts at the Humane Society of the United States, positive reinforcement can be defined as training that uses treats and/or praise to reward your dog for doing something you want her to do. If positive reinforcement means giving your dog something then negative reinforcement can be thought of as taking something away from your dog. Many training professionals note that old-school negative reinforcement has basically fallen out of favor, and is something you should never do without the advice of a professional.
Positive Reinforcement Training Tips
1. Make sure your food reward treats are very small (as in the size of a pea) so that training doesn’t equal feeding.
2. Keep training sessions short and focused, 3-5 minutes a few times a day.
3. Always match up a treat reward with verbal praise (“Yes” and Good dog” work well).
4. Be patient and manage your expectations so you don’t demand too much too soon from your dog.
5. Training sessions should happen when both you and your dog are in a good mood.
6. Keep an extra special treat on hand to occasionally reward very good behavior.
7. As the training progresses, start cutting back on the quantity of food treats, with the goal of switching to rewards like play and cuddles.
8. A play reward with a favorite toy can work with dogs who are more motivated by your attention than by food.
9. Bad behaviors should be ignored, not punished. Redirect your dog’s attention to something else.
10. Focus on one single behavior during each training session.
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