Uncontrolled barking, digging, chewing and other behavior problems are just annoying and a waste of time and energy. The results of allowing your dog to misbehave are not desirable for everyone. This is why reward based training for dogs are so popular as this training approach works well to make any dog obedient!
In fact, reward-based training (aka positive reinforcement training) isn’t necessarily a new concept. It’s actually been around since the time when dogs are present on the planet. This training concept has been used since the dawn of civilization.
But with the advent of highly advanced dog training aids, such as clickers, leashes, and electronic collars, people have gotten a bit too caught up in the tech and isn’t paying attention to this basic concept.
Reward-based training is the continuation of a positive relationship between repeated, consistent behaviors and positive outcomes. It is break down into three broad categories:
- The timing of the reward.
- The type of reward.
- The process of executing the reward
It is important to understand that timing is the foundation of the success for the reward-based training. The reward must be given at the exact moment that your dog follows the command. The quicker the better.
By giving your dog his treat only after he had completed your instruction, you are teaching him that he will only get a reward if he participates in the intended behavior.
You can use a treat as a reward for almost everything. Almost all dogs will be motivated to work for a food reward. In fact, the value of the food itself can often exceed the value of other form of rewards!
If you decided to use food as a reward, it is important that you buy the best quality food that you can afford. Quality is important, but so is the amount of calories in the food. If you buy a quality dog food but you are feeding your dog too many calories, he will be overweight and lazy. Avoid giving your dog a treat that contains too much calories. Choose a dog treat that is not only delicious, but also nutritious.
If you choose not to use treats, or for some reason you do not like the idea of giving your dog tidbits, just use verbal praise. By doing so you are telling him that you are pleased with his behavior.
It is important to define what is the optimal behavior in your dog that you are looking for. You may use the cues you want your dog to understand and the behaviors you like him to do. In most instances, we define optimal behavior through what drives our desired behaviors.
When your dog does what you had asked for, it is important to reward him with positive actions, like giving him his favorite treat or toy, showing him some love or giving him some anxious joyful attention.
When rewarding your dog, it is important to remember to reward the desired behavior or action, not the result.
It is only when your dog experiences the “good effects” (rewards) of behaving that he will want to repeat the good behavior. So, if you give him the treat at the exact moment , you are creating a persistent reinforcement of the proper behavior that you want. Your dog will keep repeating this learned behaviors as he knows that this will get him rewarded.
Remember, if you want to make the training a success, make it fun for your dog and keep the sessions short. This will prevent him from getting bored. Dogs have short attention span and keeping the training session short is the best way to get them to do the right thing.
Clicker training is an excellent way to teach your dog good behavior. This type of training doesn’t use punishment. Your dog is actually taught to associate a stimulus, with a verbal sound that is made by the clicker. He is then taught to follow the best behavior, and then the clicker is used to reward him.
You can certainly use the clicker to shape a good behavior. For example, if you ask your dog to sit, he will learn that a click is a reward, but only if he sits, otherwise the click is simply there to remind him of the required behavior.
But do note that the clicker method can be problematic when you are too far from your dog and you give the reward too late or at the wrong time.
It is also important to keep in mind that you should not “force” your dog into doing something. Forcing a dog to do something can be seen as cruelty, even by those who are trying to be nice.
Instead, make your training more gradual on little steps, one command at a time! Train your dog to respect you as the alpha leader. You must take the position of the leader. If your dog routinely tests your authority, ignore him. Give affection to your dog only when he has responded to your commands correctly.
Training your dog can sometimes be tough, but it is very rewarding. Make it fun for you and your dog and you will enjoy seeing the results.