Chewing your shoes, bolting out the door ahead of you and jumping up to greet you may not be your favorite doggie behaviors. However, through positive reinforcement, you can train your dog to behave without you having to play the bad guy.
The concept of positive reinforcement is simple yet powerful: Instead of punishing bad behavior, reward good behavior. Typically, you'll do this by giving your dog a treat, praise or toy whenever he performs a desired action. However, if you want positive reinforcement to work, consistency is important, timing is crucial and the type of reward is essential.
What Motivates Him?
Discover what motivates your pup. Not all dogs are big eaters, so a treat has to be something they really love. Consider small pieces of meat the size of a pencil eraser. Along with a special treat, add some praise. Some pups love to hear your voice and others want to be petted.
How to Reward
Reward him immediately. If you are teaching him to sit, reward him before he stands up again. The reward must occur at the exact time he sits, or he will not be able to associate the treat or praise with the action. Using a clicker at the very moment he carries out the wanted action and then offering a treat a second after is one of the easiest and fastest ways to get your dog to associate the behavior with the reward.
How to Deal With Unwanted Behavior
If your dog acts up or gets distracted, redirect his focus with positive reinforcement. If you catch him chewing on your shoe, take the shoe away, say "no" firmly but not angrily and give him a chew toy. Keep your cool and do NOT scold. Instead, praise him when he accepts the toy. The next time he is chewing his toy, pat him and praise him. He will associate the positive reinforcement with the correct behavior.
Use consistency. Make sure all members of the family use the same command words oin the same tone. Emphasize that only positive behavior is rewarded. Continue to use reinforcement intermittently once your dog learns the behavior.
Taper Reward Frequency
After your dog is consistently following a certain command, reward him three out of four times and then every other time until the reward is occasional. Instead of the food treat, praise such as "good boy," may be enough.
Exercise and Play
Walking and playing with your dog daily will not only help positive reinforcement training, but it also tires your dog so he is less likely to have unacceptable behavior.
By Pauline Gill
About the Author
Pauline Gill is a retired teacher with more than 25 years of experience teaching English to high school students. She holds a bachelor's degree in language arts and a Master of Education degree. Gill is also an award-winning fiction author.