Positive Reinforcement Training

Positive Reinforcement Training and Behavioral Modification

Remember how happy you were if your parents gave you a dollar for every A on your report card? That made you want to do it again, right? That’s positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement training uses praise, play and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do. Because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.

Rewarding your dog for good behavior sounds pretty simple, and it is! Here are some basic guidelines for dog training and behavioral modification that A Dogs Path teaches to all clients.

Timing is everything

Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement.

  • The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your dog may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog sit but reward him after he’s stood back up, he’ll think he’s being rewarded for standing up.
  • Using a clicker to mark the correct behavior can improve your timing and also help your dog understand the connection between the correct behavior and the treat.


Keep it short

Dogs don’t understand sentences. “Daisy, I want you to be a good girl and sit for me now” will likely earn you a blank stare. Keep commands short and uncomplicated – like “sit”, “stay”, “down”.

Consistency is key

A Dogs Path emphasizes that everyone in the family should use the same commands; otherwise, your dog may be confused. It might help to post a list of commands where everyone can become familiar with them.

When to use positive reinforcement

The good: Positive reinforcement is great for teaching your dog commands, and it’s also a great way of reinforcing good behavior. You may have your dog sit

  • before letting him out the door (which helps prevent door-darting)
  • before petting him (which helps prevent jumping on people)
  • before feeding him (which helps teach him good meal-time manners).

Give him a pat or say “Good dog” for lying quietly at your feet, or slip a treat into a Kong®-type toy when he’s chewing it instead of your shoe.

The bad: Be careful that you don’t inadvertently use positive reinforcement to reward unwanted behaviors. For example, if you let your dog outside every time he barks at a noise in the neighborhood, you’re giving him a reward (access to the yard) for behavior you want to discourage.

Shaping behavior

It can take time for your dog to learn certain behaviors. You may need to use a technique called “shaping,” which means reinforcing something close to the desired response and then gradually requiring more from your dog before he gets the treat.

A Dog’s Path uses these all of these methods in training. Whether you have an older dog, a puppy or a dog with behavioral issues, positive reinforcement can used to shape better behavior. We can help you a well- trained companion. We specialize in in-home training in parts of Bucks and Montgomery County. Please visit our website for a list of areas we cover – adogspath.com or call Ben at 267-410-5513 to schedule a free evaluation.

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