Positive reinforcement training helps dogs be their best
by Ontario SPCA and Humane Society | Dog Care | February 25, 2022
Are you trying to teach your dog something new, or decrease unwanted behaviours? Try positive reinforcement training! It’s an effective method to shape your dog’s behaviour, and the guiding principle at Ontario SPCA animal centres.
What is positive reinforcement training?
Have you noticed how much your dog loves being praised and is more focused on you when food or a toy is involved? Positive reinforcement training uses all of these things to encourage good doggie behaviours. The idea is that an immediate reward of praise accompanied with a treat or toy means that your dog is likely to repeat these actions.
Choose a reward your dog loves
Most dogs are motivated by food, so choosing small treats that your dog loves will help encourage them to pay attention to you during training. If your dog isn’t food motivated, try offering up their favourite toy, petting them, or a few moments of play as a reward instead.
Use body language and short words
Dogs learn first from your body language. For example, if you’re teaching your dog how to sit, hold a treat or toy up, move it slowly over their head so they have to sit to look up at the valued item, then reward them right away by giving them the desired treat or toy. Once you’ve practiced this a few times, you can start incorporating the word “sit.” Avoiding sentences is best since dogs respond better to shorter words.
Some other words to use include “Down” to lie down, “Up” to stand up, “Drop” or “Give” to exchange something in their mouth for a treat or toy, or “Watch” to get them to look at you.
Focus on timing
Rewarding your furry friend too long after good behaviour doesn’t work. It’s important to have a treat – or a toy if that’s what motivates them – on hand so that you can reward them within seconds.
Switch up how often you give treats
Begin by rewarding your furry friend every four out of five times. Then, slowly decrease the rewards over time, but continue to use praise so that your dog learns that every time they model this behaviour, they’ll get praise and the occasional treat.
Need additional dog training support? Speak to your veterinarian or search for a dog trainer in your area who uses positive reinforcement methods in the Fear Free Certified Professionals directory.
Supporting dogs with additional challenges
Here at the Ontario SPCA, we believe in positive reinforcement and are working towards building a Provincial Dog Rehabilitation Centre that will be custom built to help dogs who need more support and individualized care than an animal centre can provide. The rehabilitation centre will be staffed by experts with training in dog behaviour who will put evidence-based dog behavioural research into practice to change the lives of dogs who need additional support.
By doing this, they’ll have a better chance of being adopted and will also be able to transfer their new skills into their forever homes – but we need your help. We’re so close to making the first rehab centre of its kind in Canada a reality. With your donations, we can make this happen – please consider donating today.
Three cheers for the volunteers!
Three cheers for the volunteers! Keep doing wonderful work, thank you!