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Why positive reinforcement when training a dog is so important!

I think most of us can agree that the old saying, “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” is pretty accurate. Positive interactions are what keep us going, filtering out negative ones while focusing on the good things we experience and the ones that are to come. That’s why positive reinforcement when training a dog is so important.

What is positive reinforcement?

Just like it sounds, you are reinforcing desired behavior with positive incentives such as praise and treats. This increases the likelihood of them repeating the desired action or behavior. This type of training conditions and shapes behavior without punishment or coercion.

Why does it matter when training?

Animal psyches are not much unlike our own; we thrive on encouragement and praise. Imagine working all day and only getting punished for errors and never getting praised for a job well done. You’d be pretty miserable, right? We all want to hear that we’re doing a good job and in turn it keeps us motivated to continue to strive for our best. This motivation works pretty much the same with dogs. When you provide your dog with praise, they not only continue the desired behavior for rewards, they also gain confidence.

Negative interactions often outweigh the good ones.

In relationships, at work or at home, one negative experience will have more of an impact than a handful of good ones. One bad comment from a loved one or co-worker can echo in your mind for weeks, while a majority of the positive ones go in one ear and out the other. Psychologists often use a five to one ratio, stating that we need about 5 positive interactions to counteract just one negative one. The same is true for our dogs, especially when we are trying to shape their behavior from what they seem to think is perfectly acceptable and natural (like barking or jumping).

Consistency is key when using positive reinforcement

It may take a little more work, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Staying consistent with treats and praise for a job well done, as well as withholding them for undesired behaviors, is very important. Only enforcing the rules sporadically will confuse your dog. But if you stick with it, before too long you will have a well behaved canine companion who is happy and full of confidence.

Make sure to check out posts on the ABC’s of Dog Behavior and how aversive training can cause fallout.

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