Positive reinforcement is usually something pleasant added that follows a behaviour that makes it more likely that the desired behaviour will occur again in the future. A Positive Reinforcer is the stimulus presented following a desired behaviour. Reinforcement can also be described as positive or negative. It is something an animal wants to acquire more of, or something it wants to escape from or avoid. Positive reinforcement can be used to improve proficiency, teach new skills, maintain existing behaviour and fine-tune particular desired behaviours.
The most important aspect to remember when using a positive reinforcer for a dog is that the reinforcer must be something that the dog find desirable. If a reinforcer is delivered to a dog and it does not result in the desired behaviour, it is possible that what you think is a reinforcer and what the dog thinks is a reinforcer are two different things.
One advantage of using Positive Reinforcement to train dogs is that anyone, including children, can use positive reinforcement effectively to train their dogs. This method does not require physical strength or experience and is not dangerous to the owner or dog during training. Another advantage of this type of training is that it allows the owner to communicate clearly with the dog. The owner can decide what behaviour they want their dog to display and reward the dog when he/she displays it. This increases the probability of the desired behaviour happening more frequently in future.
The advantage of using this training method is that it can be used for a wide variety of behaviours. Fearful dogs can benefit hugely from Positive Reinforcement and on the opposite end of the scale, aggressive dogs also respond favourably to Positive Reinforcement. Should aversive punishment be used on dogs with these types of behaviours, a dog that is scared or fearful of certain people or situations may become even more fearful when punishment is used as a training method. Very often, aggressive dogs become even more aggressive in the face of punishment.
Finally, Positive Reinforcement training methods help strengthen the bond between dog and owner. The dog is much more likely to enjoy the presence of the owner if he/she is being rewarded rather than fearing punishment. While other training methods may teach the dog how to behave, positive reinforcement leads your dog to produce more desirable behaviours, hence builds the relationship on trust and leadership.
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Isabelle Adams-Papé IMDT
121 Dog Training – Hong Kong (no longer operational)
Ringwood Dogs, Ashley Heath on the Hampshire and Dorset border, UK
Dog Training, Dog Walking, Dog Day Care, Home Dog Boarding