Training for your dog: The Positive Reinforcement Method
It’s widely accepted among dog training experts that the most effective way to train your dog is with positive reinforcement training.
A fancy phrase for what’s essentially a very simple theory: using positive reinforcement means rewarding behavior want repeated, and ignoring the behavior that you don’t. This method is entirely different to some of the once-popular techniques for dog training, some of which were frankly inhumane, involving physical pain and intimidation, or methods of aversion therapy (such as shock collars for barking).
Positive reinforcement works with dogs in the same way it works with children. A dog’s natural instinct is to please you – positive reinforcement recognizes that when a dog is able to work out what you’re asking by herself, (instead of, for instance, learning “down” by being forced into position, while the word “down” is repeated) she will learn more quickly and remember the lessons better. Using positive reinforcement training, allows her the time and opportunity to use her own brain.
Use meaningful rewards.
A routine pat on the head and a “good girl” will soon get boring. Use tempting incentives to reward good behavior. Food treats and physical affection are both significant rewards that most dogs respond to eagerly.
Use the right timing.
When your dog obeys a command, you must reward the behavior in a way that shows her or ‘marks’ exactly what behavior earned her the reward. You may find a clicker useful for this. They are easily found online or at a pet shop. You need to click at the exact moment the desired behavior is done. E.g. you’d click the clicker just as the dog’s bottom hits the ground, when asking a dog to sit. Use your voice to mark desired behavior: just saying “Yes!” in a happy, excited tone of voice will work perfectly.
Give her the treat after the marker – and be sure to use the marker consistently. She needs to learn what that marker means (i.e. she’s done something right whenever she hears the marker, and a treat will follow very shortly). If you only say “Yes!” or use the clicker some times and not at others it will not mean anything to your dog when you do do it.Being consistent will be far more effective.
Be consistent with your training commands.
When teaching a dog a command, you must decide what verbal command you’re going to give, and stick to it. So, when training your dog to not jump up on you, you wouldn’t use to “get off” and “get down” and “stop jumping”, because that will confuse her. Pick one phrase, such as “No jump”, and stick with it. Even the smartest dogs don’t understand the spoken word – they learn through consistent repetition the actions associated with a particular phrase. Your success rate will be much better if you choose one particular phrase and use it every time you expect a certain reaction.