Pet Training Tips: Use Rewards for Positive Reinforcement

Pet training strategies – more specifically, dog training strategies – have changed over the past few years, in response to a more comprehensive understanding of canine psychology and behavior.

Gone are the days when effective dog trainers forced an animal’s compliance using heavy-handed tactics or dominance-based approaches.

Today we know that the successful basis for effective pet training begins with a positive approach, using rewards and reinforcement.

The Advantage of Reward and Positive Reinforcement

Some dog trainers continue to advocate the “alpha dog” approach pet training.

Under this method, the trainer goes to work immediately upon meeting the dog to demonstrate that he or she is in command. This may involve the use of choke chain, prong collar, or similar methods of establishing dominance.

Many canine psychologists and veterinary experts believe these methods are inhumane, and no scientific evidence exists to support their effectiveness. In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior questions the safety of dominance-based dog training.

Both the pet’s trainer and owner must act as a leader and authority figure. However, the use of reward and positive reinforcement to establish trust and learning is well-supported in the scientific research.

The Importance of Consistency in Pet Training

Above all else, your dog will respond best to consistency.

As creatures of habit and routine, dogs become confused when they receive mixed signals or inconsistent feedback. For example, if you allow your pet to jump up on you and your family, he won’t understand why he’s not allowed to greet visitors the same way.

If your dog is not allowed on the couch, this means she is never allowed on the couch. If you make exceptions, the rules will never become clear to your pet, leaving you both frustrated.

Likewise, you must use the same commands each time, lest your pet become confused. Down and off are two of the most commonly confused terms but, in pet training, down is the command to lie down, whereas off is the command to stop jumping on humans.

The commands can’t be used interchangeably.

The Benefits of Professional Pet Training

Despite what you may have heard or read on the internet, it’s not possible to effectively complete your pet’s training using only rewards and a positive attitude. Although that is the basis for establishing trust and the learning process, it’s only one part of the equation.

Once your pet understands what is expected of him, our program strengthens that knowledge using a consistent application of reinforcement techniques. Of course, you must continue working with your dog after the initial training period is complete, to ensure that old behaviors do not reemerge.

The most effective way to accomplish this is to build the practice into your everyday routine. It will also be beneficial to revisit with a professional trainer each year, to correct any bad habits that may have developed over time.

At Innovative K9 Academy, we use a science-based approach that incorporates best practices gleaned from service dog and police K9 training strategies. Our professional trainers have extensive education and experience using compassionate, proven techniques.

Contact us today to learn more about our highly successful approach to pet training.