Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

The Resource for Everything About Dogs

Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

by Rena Murray

There is nothing wrong with using a little food to encourage and reward Gus in his dog obedience training. There are a few things, however, that the handler must have in mind if he is to use treats as the primary positive reinforcement in dog training.

First, you must know how to make it one hundred percent clear that you are rewarding the dog. You cannot have him watching your hand for food. Gus needs to have his eyes on you, not your hand. Second, you have to make Gus work for the food mentally by teaching him patience.

Many people try to do dog training using the treat as a bribe; it's not about focus with them. More often than not, they end up with a spoiled beggar who only listens when you have food for him.

I have only trained one dog with food as the positive reinforcement. I really do not recommend this sort of training for many reasons. One is the fact that the timing has to be so precise that I feel as though I am walking on eggshells. It is very stressful if done right. One error during this training, and it is much harder to change than affection based rewards.

This kind of training does seem somewhat useful in certain situations, though, such as when a large dog is living with someone who does not really know how to control it and tries to use physical force. You cannot control a dog physically; you can only do it psychologically.

If you are going to use treat based dog obedience training, it is important to use foods that are safe for dogs and more likely to entice them. Small pieces of chicken, cheese, or beef seem to work the best.

To begin, take Gus to an area with no distractions. Have the food in your back pocket and arranged so you can grab a piece as you need it. Tell Gus to sit. If he does, give him a little taster of chicken for a reward. Have him sit again, being sure he is making eye contact with you before the reward. Make sure you actions of dispensing the food are as subtle as possible. Next try the command again about three times with affection as the reward.

Now challenge Gus a little further. Have him sit for three seconds, then five seconds, before he receives a reward. You are showing Gus that paying attention to you is how he gets the food. Keep mixing up the time Gus must sit for the food so he cannot predict what you are going to do and cheat. Also, here and there reward him with affection instead.

Remember to keep the tidbits small, or all you are going to see is how well Gus can gulp. It is important, as well, to teach one behavior at a time. For example, teach 'sit' the first day. Reinforce 'sit' the next day, and introduce 'down.' Work on sit and down for a couple of days? You get the idea. Keep in mind that dogs are very smart, but they can only do one thing at a time.

An easy way to teach Gus to come involving food is to combine it with another dog instinctive behavior. Your dog loves to chase! Here is the proper way to do that so you do not end up with a dog who plays "Keep away" with you.

Take off running with your dog on a leash then stop suddenly. Call Gus to you and feed him a piece of chicken when he comes. Bring him to you if he doesn't. Do this about three times and then give a try with affection for a reward.

Begin interspersing more affection as the reward, not just dog treats. Positive reinforcement dog training with food must evolve to using only random treats, or your dog will not listen without them as a bribe. In an emergency, that could cost your dog his life!

GET HELP from Rena Murray at the Dog Obedience Training website. Proven Dog Behavior Modification Expert-Dog Obedience Trainer-Platinum Expert Author, Rena debunks Dog Training Myths in hands-on Articles, free "Best Ezines" newsletter - PAW PERSUASION POINTERS, and blatant Blog to help you better understand, communicate with, control and enjoy your dogs. Rena boldly addresses all your Dog Training and Dog Rehabilitation needs - whether puppy house training, destructive dog behavior, obsessive dog behavior, dog instinctive behavior, or cool dog tricks. Get your FREE Newsletter Subscription at http://www.PawPersuasion.com/ where you also find Dog Products, Dog Houses and Crates, Dog Lover Gifts, and all things dog-related. Need more help? Contact Rena for Coaching.

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