Today, many pets are regarded as members of the family. That bond, along with training and behavior studies, have caused negative, punishment-based training techniques to lose popularity among veterinary professionals and pet owners in favor of methods that incorporate positive reinforcement.
The bond between pets and their people is an important one, and we encourage interactions that will strengthen that bond. This bond can easily be damaged when training methods involving punishment, “pack leader,” or dominance theories are used. Incorporating these training techniques can actually create behavioral problems and lead to fear and aggression issues.
The benefits of positive reinforcement training
With positive reinforcement training, behaviors you like are rewarded and behaviors you don’t like are ignored. Positive reinforcement helps pet owners learn to connect with their pets and how to solve problems in a humane manner, strengthening their relationship, building confidence, and encouraging cooperation. Pets taught using positive training techniques are more tolerant, self-controlled, confident, and well-adjusted. They behave more predictably in strange situations and are less likely to show signs of anxiety.
Four additional benefits of using positive training techniques include:
1. The entire family can be involved with positive training. Everyone in the family can join in on this form of training. There’s no need to yell, use brute force, or potentially place anyone in danger by further scaring a fearful dog. Children can easily train a pet in this fashion, without fear of snapping or biting commonly seen during training that incorporates punishment. As long as the entire family is on board with using the same cues, anyone can train the family pet in an effective manner with just a handful of treats and an abundance of praise.
2. Positive training bridges the communicates gap. You and your pet may use two completely different languages to communicate, but positive reinforcement techniques bridge that communication gap. How does positive training work? You decide what behavior you’d like to see your pet carry out, and then you reward her appropriately when she executes that behavior. Your pet will quickly catch onto the correct behavior, and then you can add in a cue word to help communicate what is expected.
Fear gained during punishment techniques does not help your pet learn effectively. Here’s a look at the positive-reinforcement difference during house training.
- Punishment-based training — Your puppy urinates in front of you. You yell and rub her nose in the carpet to let her know she was wrong. In the following days, you find several areas where your puppy has snuck off and found a bathroom area in your home. Punishment techniques have caused your puppy to believe that eliminating when you are around is the wrong behavior, rather than teaching her to eliminate outside.
- Positive reinforcement training — Your puppy urinates in front of you. You say nothing, do not get angry, and take her outside. You take her outside often, and during the next trip outside, she urinates in the yard. You immediately say “yes” and give her a treat and praise. If she has any other accidents inside, you ignore her, and you continue to praise and provide treats when she eliminates outside. Your puppy will quickly catch on that she only hits the treat jackpot when she eliminates in the appropriate spot, and she’ll work to earn that reward.
3. Positive training offers mental stimulation and decreases problem behaviors. Bored pets look for their own entertainment and easily end up getting into mischief. Chewing, digging, and barking are commonly seen with bored dogs, not bad dogs. Remedy this situation by adding a couple of short, fun training sessions daily. Make your pet use her brain, and you’ll be amazed at how much energy she burns—similar to the amount of a lengthy exercise session.
4. Positive training strengthens the bond you have with your pet. Through positive reinforcement training, you’ll build a relationship based on trust, cooperation, and positive associations with your pet, which strengthens your bond.
Be the person your dog thinks you are. For more help understanding how to train your pet using positive reinforcement methods, give our office a call at 318-797-5522. Have you considered doggie daycare? It’s amazing what can happen when pets have active social lives using their brains and bodies! Join us on social media and see all that we are up to!