Most professional dog trainers use positive reinforcement-based training techniques in their work today because this approach has extensive scientific research to support its efficacy.
In years past, a punishment-based approach was popular. Unfortunately, some trainers continue to hang onto this outdated approach even today. But, as the research clearly shows, using a system of positive reinforcement is the safest, most effective way to teach your pet.
What Is Positive Reinforcement Dog Training?
If you recall the story of Pavlov’s dogs, then you are already familiar with a form of learning known as classical conditioning. Each time, just before feeding his dogs, Pavlov rang a bell and then offered food. The food caused the dogs to salivate. Over time, they came to associate the bell with food so, ultimately, Pavlov could ring the bell and the dogs would salivate even without the food.
In this example, Pavlov used a form positive reinforcement (the food), which was something the dogs enjoyed.
In addition to classical conditioning, dog training can also use operant conditioning. The difference is that, in the classical approach, the reward is given in advance of the behavior. In operant conditioning, the reward comes after the dog exhibits the desired response.
How Do Dog Trainers Use Positive Reinforcement?
When dog training programs reward wanted behaviors with something positive – like treats, toys or playtime – the dogs come to associate certain behaviors with a positive outcome.
In the beginning, trainers use classical conditioning techniques, by simply giving the dog a treat upon starting a session. This way, the pup quickly learns that even just seeing the trainer means he gets a reward. The trainer then builds incrementally on this basis by slowly introducing – and rewarding – desired behaviors.
Trainers ignore unwanted behaviors, rather than giving negative reinforcement (punishment), or use corrections to guide the dog to do what will bring a treasured reward.
When to Seek Help from Professional Dog Trainers
Pet owners can learn to use positive reinforcement dog training techniques at home. But, unless you have experience, you will have more success letting a pro get your pet off to a solid start.
It can be easy to lose patience with a pet – especially a puppy or a dog with behavioral problems – and snap. But losing your temper or getting angry at your pet can do more harm than good. When you send your pet to dog training boot camp or obedience courses with a professional dog trainer, you can seamlessly transition to using the same techniques at home to reinforce and further your pet’s education.
When you trust Innovative K9 Academy to help train your dog, you will get the benefit of our extensive experience in the included in-home sessions. Our in-home sessions are designed to help you hone your pet’s new skills, allowing you to take full advantage of the work we’ve already done. If you live in the Salt Lake City area, contact us today to learn more about our experienced dog trainers and how our positive reinforcement techniques can benefit you and your pet.