Becoming a new dog owner can be very exciting and challenging at the same time. No doubt, you have all the good intention to make sure that your puppies are well-trained so they can live safe and happy. But how do you train a playful pup to be a well-disciplined doggie? You could start with positive reinforcement.
Positive reinforcement is a science-backed way to encourage the behaviour you want to see, and it’s easy to get started.
What is positive reinforcement
Reinforcement is how dogs (and humans, for that matter) are biologically designed to learn behaviour.
When they do something that gives them pleasure, their brain tells them to do it again, anticipating another reward when they do. This is what we call positive reinforcement, and after time, the desired behaviour becomes their natural habit.
Start with understanding your dog
If you want to reward your dog, start with learning what gives your dog joy. Is it a cuddle, a healthy treat or a favourite toy? Maybe it’s a combination of things. Work out what your dog loves, and you’re halfway there.
Create a simple trigger
When teaching a behaviour to your pup, introduce a simple word like “sit”. The word itself is not important, but the sound is. In this instance, you could introduce a clicker instead. The sound will become an unconscious ‘trigger’ for the desired behaviour.
Reward your dog immediately
Dogs live in the moment, so give your reward immediately after they show good behaviour. The more your dog associates the reward with the behaviour, the more established and powerful the habit becomes.
Be consistent with your dog
Use the same command, the same tone, and the same reward every time. Anticipation is as much a part of the reward as anything else.
How to deal with bad behaviour
When a dog starts barking, scratching or jumping, it’s easy to do whatever it takes to keep them calm, whether that’s letting them outside or giving them a treat. The problem is that it works as a reward for bad behaviour (i.e. If I scratch on the back door and bark, one of these humans will let me out to play).
Rather than rewarding or punishing bad behaviour, lets take the opportunity to refocus on what behaviour you do want to see.
It might take some patience, but rewarding good behaviour is the fastest way forward to a happy well-behaved hound.