5 Ways To Use Positive Reinforcement With Your Dog

There are different schools of thought regarding the most effective way to train canines. Long ago, many trainers recommended using various forms of punishment to discourage unwanted behaviors. For example, excessive barking might have been addressed by isolating the animal is his crate. Inappropriate elimination may have resulted in the owner hitting his pet with a rolled up newspaper.

Today, punishment has all but disappeared when training dogs. Rewards are used in its place. This article will describe several ways to use rewards as positive reinforcement to encourage desired behaviors in your pet.

#1 – Dog Treats

Nearly all canines are motivated by food. They are willing to comply with almost any command if doing so results in an edible treat. This makes food particularly effective during training sessions – both for teaching new commands and practicing those that are already familiar to your pet.

Another benefit of using food is that, unlike most other rewards, you can give them to your dog quickly. As soon as he performs a desired action, you can toss him a treat. This has a major influence on his ability to recall and repeat the action he performed to earn the treat.

One potential drawback of using treats is that your canine might eventually gain weight. This problem can be avoided by providing healthy food treats rather than those that are packed with fat and sugar.

#2 – Praise, Petting, And Attention

Dogs love attention from their owners and families. Most crave more than they receive. When your pet does something you would like to encourage, praise and pet him. He’ll perceive both as rewards, and will be more inclined to do the same thing in the future.

Canines will often approach their owners to be petted by them. If your dog approaches you for this purpose, require him to perform a specific action before you give him your attention. This trains him that nothing is free, and you expect him to work for what he desires.

#3 – Games And Playtime

Most dogs enjoy playing games. Hence, you can use games as a reward, and start one after your pet has performed a desired behavior. For example, suppose you are training him to remain still for an extended period. Once he does so successfully, play catch with him.


The key is to consistently use games as a training opportunity. That is, never start a game until your canine has complied with a command. If you intend to play with him, require him to “sit” or “come” before you begin. It won’t take long for your dog to realize that the sooner he complies, the sooner you’ll start playing with him.

#4 – Interaction With Other Canines

If you have ever visited a dog park, you already know that canines love the company of other canines. They enjoy playing together off-leash. They’ll wrestle with each other, chase one another, and even race. Use interaction with other dogs as positive reinforcement for a behavior you want to encourage.

For example, suppose you are visiting a park where other pets are present. Your canine will likely be excited to play with them. Before you allow him to do so, require him to sit and stay patiently while waiting for your instructions. Once he complies, take him onto the park grounds.

#5 – Walks, Hikes, And Enjoying The Outdoors

Even canines that spend most of their time indoors enjoy being out in the open air. You should consider investing in installing pet doors so your dog can go to the backyard. When outside, your pet will want to investigate the new scents and sights around him. Use time outdoors as a reward for training purposes. Because you won’t be able to interrupt training session to take walks or hikes with your dog, use a clicker to capture – or mark – the desired behavior. When the session is over, take your pet outdoors.

For most canines, food will always represent the favored reward. But there are many other ways to apply positive reinforcement when training your pet.

Posted by on May 4, 2011. Filed under Animals. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.