Positive Reinforcement Dog Training
Positive reinforcement is one of the most popular approaches to training dogs because they are natural people pleasers. To use positive reinforcement effectively:
- First, find out what your dog perceives as positive. For example, when you yell at a barking dog, the dog could perceive this as positive reinforcement, because you’re joining him in making noise.
- Next, make sure you clearly differentiate with your dog between unwanted and wanted behaviors. Timing is everything — if a dog is excessively barking, then stops and you reward him, he might think you’ve rewarded the barking rather than the cessation!
- Finally, be consistent with your training. If you correct your dog’s excessive barking only part of the time, you’re confusing him.
Our signature product, The BarxBuddy, paired with our signature training method, “Train, Treat, Repeat,” helps dog owners and trainers interrupt unwanted dog behaviors so you can consistently train them to do what you want them to do.
Dog Training With Positive Reinforcement vs Correction
Here’s the deal. No, you don’t have to give treats to your dog when training. You can encourage your dog with praise or play. But at the start of your training, your dog may not find either rewarding enough to maintain their behavior for any length of time.
Instead, using a treat reward system can prove powerful in reinforcing behavior for the long haul. When your dog behaves in a manner that gets them a tasty treat, your dog will likely repeat it. On the other hand, if their behavior isn’t rewarded with a treat, there’s a higher probability they won’t.
Need scientific evidence? A group of researchers tested three groups of dogs using different types of rewards — food, petting, and verbal praise — and the sit-stay command. The dogs in the food group required the least amount of training (5 blocks, or sessions) to learn the sit-stay command; petted dogs required 12 blocks and verbally praised dogs required 13 blocks (Psychology Today).
We aren’t saying you can’t reward your dog with a scratch behind the ears and lots of “good boy” praise! But add a treat to it, and you’ve got yourself an attentive audience that’s more willing to please you.
How Does the Train, Treat, Repeat Method Work?
The train, treat, repeat method of dog training can be used in two ways — to correct unwanted behaviors and to reward desired behaviors.
Correcting unwanted behaviors
The key to correcting unwanted behaviors is timing! You want to interrupt unwanted behaviors and reward good ones.
- When your dog is doing unwanted behavior, such as barking, jumping, or growling at a visitor, use The BarxBuddy ultrasonic training tool to distract him, and then give a verbal command like “quiet” or “down.”
- Before your dog can resume the unwanted behavior, repeat the command. You might even stage triggers, such as having a friend knock on your door.
- Offer your dog a treat when following your command, making sure that you aren’t confusing him by rewarding his aggressive behavior. Make sure he’s quiet for several seconds before you offer him a treat.
- As your dog recognizes your command and resists the urge to bark, jump or growl, reward his good behavior with a treat. Or, if you decide to allow your dog to bark once when a visitor arrives
Rewarding desired behaviors
- When you’re on a walk with your dog and you pass by another dog and she resists the urge to bark aggressively, reward her with a treat.
- When someone knocks at the door and you give the quiet command once and she listens, give her a treat.
- When you have visitors arrive and she doesn’t jump on them aggressively, reward her with a treat.
The key to reward-based dog training is consistency.
Use the Train, Treat, Repeat Method to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking
Just like the train, treat, repeat method works when teaching basic behaviors, it’s effective at training more complex ones. Let’s say you want your dog to stop barking at the neighbor, or squirrels, or anything else that moves. So, in this case, the good behavior you want to reinforce is your dog being quiet when exposed to these situations.
Since your dog is wound up and possibly frantically barking in these scenarios, you may find adding an ultrasonic training tool like the BarxBuddy with the train, treat, repeat method highly effective at eliminating one behavior (barking) and reinforcing another (quiet). Training devices like the BarxBuddy are easy to use and they don’t harm your dog.
Get ready with a pocketful of treats.
- When your dog starts barking, quickly tap the button on the BarxBuddy, and say your command “quiet.”
- After a few seconds when she quiets down, offer her a treat and praise.
- Repeat if your dog goes back to barking. Remember to be consistent. Every time she quiets down on your command, give her a treat. Your dog will come to learn to associate her quietness with the treat. (Any time your dog displays the desired behavior, reward her with a treat, even if she performed the behavior without your command).
How to Let Your Dog Know When It’s OK to Bark
Let’s say you want to train your dog to let you know when he is hungry (or needs to go out, or wants to play — whatever the trigger may be), but you also want to train him to know when to stop barking for food. The key is to let your dog know “I’ve got this.”
Use the train, treat, repeat methodology. Allow the dog to make his alert — a yip for a treat, two barks when the doorbell rings, for example — then use BarxBuddy ultrasonic training tool followed by a verbal command.
Tips for Better Dog Training
While the train, treat, repeat dog training method is highly effective, there are a few quick tips that will help ensure the best outcome.
- Keep the treats small. You don’t want the training to cause your dog to be overweight.
- Try different treats to help keep your dog motivated.
- Phase out treats as rewards when your dog is displaying the desired behavior 90% of the time.
- Incorporate replacement rewards like a game of tug-of-war, a belly rub, a walk, or fetch.
- Continue to train your dog throughout her life, using a mix of life rewards and treats to ensure her best behaviors are here to stay.
- Be patient. As with any dog training, new behaviors are not formed overnight.
- Exercise your dog regularly. A tired dog is a good dog and less likely to display negative behavior.