Mini Cart

Using rewards and positive reinforcement to train your dog

 Training dogs using positive reinforcement and reward training has long been recognized as both highly effective for the owner and a positive experience for the dog.  Positive reinforcement training is so important that it is the only method used to train dangerous animals like lions and tigers for work in circuses and in the movie and television industry.  Proponents of positive reinforcement swear by the effectiveness of their techniques, and it is true that the vast majority of dogs respond well to these training methods.

One reason that positive reinforcement training is so effective is that is uses rewards to teach the dog what is expected of it.  When the dog performs the desired behavior, he is provided with a reward, most often in the form of a food treat, but it could be a scratch behind the ears, a rub under the chin or a pat on the head as well.  The important thing is that the dog is rewarded consistently for doing the right thing.

Reward training has become increasingly popular in recent years, but chances are some sort of reward training between humans and dogs has been going on for hundreds if not thousands of years.

When understanding what makes reward training so effective, some knowledge of the history of humans and dogs is very helpful.  The earliest dogs were probably wolf pups that were tamed and used by early humans for protection from predators, as alarm systems and later for guarding and herding livestock.  It is possible that the wolf pups that made the best companions were the most easily trained, or it is possible that these early dogs were orphaned or abandoned wolf pups.  Whatever their origin, there is little doubt today that the vast variety of dogs we see today have their origin in the humble wolf.

Wolf packs, like packs of wild dogs, operate on a strict pack hierarchy. Since wolf and dog packs hunt as a group, this type of hierarchy, and the cooperation it brings, is essential to the survival of the species.  Every dog in the pack knows his or her place in the pack, and except in the event of death or injury, the hierarchy, once established, rarely changes.

Every dog, therefore, is hard wired by nature to look to the pack leader for guidance.  The basis of all good dog training, including reward based training, is for the handler to set him or herself up as the pack leader.  The pack leader is more than just the dominant dog, or the one who tells all the subordinates what to do.  More importantly, the pack leader provides leadership and protection, and his or her leadership is vital to the success and survival of the pack.

It is important for the dog to see itself as part of a pack, to recognize the human as the leader of that pack, and to respect his or her authority.  Some dogs are much easier to dominate than others.  If you watch a group of puppies playing for a little while, you will quickly recognize the dominant and submissive personalities.

A dog with a more submissive personality will generally be easier to train using positive reinforcement, since he or she will not want to challenge the handler for leadership.  Even dominant dogs, however, respond very well to positive reinforcement.  There are, in fact, few dogs that do not respond well to positive reinforcement, also known as reward training.

Positive reinforcement is also the best way to retrain a dog that has behavior problems, especially one that has been abused in the past. Getting the respect and trust of an abused dog can be very difficult, and positive reinforcement is better than any other training method at creating this important bond.

No matter what type of dog you are working with, chances are it can be helped with positive reinforcement training methods.  Based training methods on respect and trust, rather than on intimidation and fear, is the best way to get the most from any dog.

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Dog training –training for proper dog behavior

 There are many reasons for teaching proper dog behavior, and teaching such behavior has many benefits for both the human and canine partners.  Dog behavior training is vital to such life and death issues as preventing aggression, controlling dog on dog aggression problems and teaching dogs to interact properly with both their handlers and with other members of the family.

Understanding how dogs evolved, and how dogs interact with each other, is very important to understanding how to properly train your dog to be a devoted, loyal companion.

The original dogs were probably orphaned wolf pups adopted by early humans.  These wild dogs probably learned to perform behaviors that their human protectors valued, such as guarding the cave or scaring off predators.  In exchange for these valued behaviors, the humans probably provided their new companions with foods, protection and shelter.

That kind of relationship still exists today, of course, and dogs still can, and do, perform valuable jobs for their human benefactors.  Those jobs include herding and guarding livestock, guarding property, guarding people, and finding game.

When planning a dog training program, it is important to know that dogs are pack animals.  In wild dog societies, packs are formed, and each member of the pack quickly learns his or her place in the pecking order.  Except in the event of death or injury to the alpha dog, the hierarchy never changes once it has been established.  The lower dogs know not to challenge the alpha dog, and the alpha dog understand his place as leader of the pack.

All the other dogs in the pack look to the alpha dog for leadership, in important survival issues like finding food and avoiding larger predators.  In order to properly train your dog and gain its respect, it is important for you to become the alpha dog.

That is because a dog that sees its owner as a superior leader will follow the commands the owner gives without question.  Getting the respect of the dog is the most important step to proper dog training, and it will form the basis of all subsequent training.

The reasons for training a dog properly are many, especially in today’s world.  A well mannered, obedient dog is a joy to be around, both for the owner and his or her family, and for people in the community at large.  In addition, seeing a well mannered dog sets people’s mind at ease, especially with breeds of dog thought to be dangerous, such as Dobermans, rottweilers and pit bulls.

When training dogs and dealing with unwanted dog behaviors, it is important to understand the motivating factors behind those behaviors.  For example, many dogs exhibit unwanted behaviors such as chewing and destroying furniture due to separation anxiety.  Dealing with the sources of problem behaviors is an important first step toward eliminating those problem behaviors.

Many dogs exhibit unwanted behaviors as a result of stress in the animal’s life, and its inability to cope with that stress.  The goal of a good dog training program is to allow the dog to tolerate greater levels of stress without becoming a problem animal.

When dealing with dog behavior, it is important not to confuse human behavior with dog behavior.  While there is a great temptation on the part of dog owners to see their dogs as almost human, in reality dogs and humans have very different motivations, and very different reactions to similar situations.

One trait that humans and dogs do share, however, is the need to form close social groups and strong bonds within those social groups.  This bonding is important to both humans and dogs, but it has served vastly different ends as both species have evolved and changed over time.

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Training your dog the reward training way

 Reward training is often seen as the most modern method of training a dog, but reward training is probably much older than other methods of dog training.  It is possible that reward training for dogs has been around as long as there have been dogs to train.  Early humans probably used some informal kind of reward training when taming the wolf pups that eventually evolved into modern dogs.

Many principles of modern reward training date back many decades.  However, what is called reward training today has only enjoyed is remarkable popularity for the past 10 or 15 years.

Many reward training enthusiasts are less enthusiastic about other methods of dog training, such as the traditional leash and collar method.  However, the best approach to training any individual dog is often a combination of leash/collar training and reward training.

In addition, a training method that works perfectly for one dog may be totally inappropriate for another, and vice versa.  Some dogs respond wonderfully to reward training and not at all to leash and collar training, while others respond to leash/collar training and are not at all motivated by reward training.  Most dogs fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

Clicker training is one of the most popular forms of reward training these days.  While clicker training is not the answer for every dog, it can be a remarkably effective method of training many dogs.  In clicker training, the dog is taught to associate a clicking sound with a reward, like a treat.  The trainer clicks the clicker when the dog does something good, followed immediately by a treat.  Eventually, the dog learns to respond to the clicker alone.

Most reward training uses some sort of food reward, or a reward that is associated with getting food.  In most cases, complex behaviors can only be taught using this kind of positive reinforcement, and you will find that the people who train dogs for movies and television use reward training almost exclusively.

Reward training is used in all forms of dog training, including police work and military applications.  Most scent detection, tracking and police dogs are trained using some form of reward training.  Reward training is also a very effective way to teach many basic obedience commands.

Reward training often incorporates the use of a lure in order to get the dog into the position desired by the trainer.  The lure is used to get the dog to perform the desired behavior on his or her own and of his or her own free will.

It makes a great deal of sense to get the dog to perform the desired behavior without any physical intervention on the part of the handler.  Getting the dog to perform a behavior without being touched is important.

After the dog has performed the desired behavior, it is given a reward, also called a positive reinforcement.  Treats are often used as reinforcers, but praise, such as “good dog” or a pat on the head, can also be effective rewards.

Making a dog that has been reward trained a reliable dog is important, especially when the dog has an important job, like police work or drug detection, to do.  For that reason it is important to get the dog accustomed to working around distractions, and to properly socialize the animal to both people and other animals.

Many dog trainers make the mistake of only training the dog inside the house or back yard, and only when the handler is there.  In order to become a reliably trained companion, the dog must be taken outside the confines of its safety zone and introduced to novel situations.

It is also important to teach the dog to pay attention to the handler at all times.  Having the attention of the dog means having control of the dog.  Reward training is very effective at getting the respect and the attention of the dog when used properly.

 

 

 

Continue Reading