Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

What is Positive Reinforcement? You may have heard it in recent years being referred to in relation to animal training and you’re actually wondering what on earth it is…..

Clients often ask how they can prevent their dogs from jumping up, barking, weeing inside the house, etc. Some trainers still advise to use old fashioned, aversive training methods, such as shouting words like: “NO”, jerking the lead, or even sometimes kicking the dog or pinning him down. Not only are some of these methods very cruel, it has now been proven that they are ineffective too; but also, they are not fun, not fun for you, and definitely not for your dog.

For positive reinforcement to work you have to make the behaviour you are trying to promote take place in the first place.
If you want to opportunity to say to child ‘well done for being so well behaved/quiet during lunch, he has to be well behaved for at least a few minutes for you to have the opportunity to tell him well done.

You are not going to bring your child to the pub and hope for the best, instead you’ll bring colouring books and dare I say an ipad to occupy them and keep them busy and therefore well behaved and quiet.

Back to our dogs. You have four ways to get your dog to demonstrate the right behaviour before reinforcing it.

You can
1 – Lure (use a treat to place the dog into a sit position for example)
2 – Capture (simply wait for the dog to sit. This tends to be time consuming)
3 – Shape (if a whole behaviour is too difficult to obtain, you can divide it into smaller chunks)
All of the above are acceptable.

The 4th way is to model the animal, for example pushing the dogs bottom down to make them sit. These hands on methods tend to feel quite confrontational so are not my favourite.

When using positive re-enforcement we wait or make the correct behaviour take place in order to re-enforce rather than punishing unwanted behaviour or mistakes. It takes a little bit more time and thought behind it but not only will you train your dog but you will create a strong, lasting and trusting bond with your dog.

It really isn’t as complicated as it sounds. As an example, your dog is jumping up at you when you get home. This is a lovely behaviour as he is happy to see you but it can be inappropriate to some as not everyone visiting your house will ‘appreciate’ it as much as you. So what are you going to do?....

Either you train your dog to sit on command ahead of time and when entering the house before the jumping behaviour has a chance to take place, ask them to sit and reward highly, leaving the treats on the floor. Your dog will soon realise they only get attention and possibly treats if they are calm when you return as jumping gets them no where.

Or, before you open the door, have some treats ready. Walk in and put a few treats on the floor, luring him to have his nose stuck to the floor. For demonstrating this down behaviour, reinforce with further treats, still on the floor.

If you would like anymore information on positive reinforcement please do get in touch. Next time we will be looking into socialisation or should it really be called habituation.