What is positive reinforcement training?
The biggest misconception about positive reinforcement is that you give treats to the dog and then ignore the bad behavior. Seems simple enough. However, there is a lot more to using positive reinforcement training.
The Basics of Positive Reinforcement are:
Positive reinforcement happens when you present a desirable reinforcer as a consequence to a behavior. This causes the behavior to increase. The rule of thumb is if you are providing reinforcement, even if it is not conscious, your dog will repeat the behavior. Reinforcement can be anything, attention, treats or toys. It is whatever motivates your dog.
Basically, a dog or puppy does something, they are rewarded for it and the dog or puppy repeats the behavior. Here are some examples of positive reinforcement:
The second part of positive reinforcement training is stopping the unwanted behavior. Extinction training is the removal of a desired event or reward as a consequence to a behavior. This causes that behavior to decrease. If you do not want your dog to repeat a behavior, do now give it any reinforcement. Even talking to your dog can be seen as receiving attention and the dog will repeat the behavior.
Even though the concept is simple, “stop reinforcing the bad behavior”, in practice it can get tricky for several reasons:
How do you stop unwanted behavior with positive reinforcement?
How does positive reinforcement and extinction work together to stop unwanted behaviors? Follow these three steps:
Step 1: Decide what you want your dog to do instead of the undesired behavior. It has to be something incompatible. As an example your dog cannot jump at the door while sitting. It is impossible! Many behaviors are not bad; they are just not wanted. Jumping is just your dog trying to get closer to you and barking is your dog talking to you. They are not being bad; we just don’t want them to do those sometimes. Your dog needs to do something though. He can’t just do nothing!
Step 2: Prevent, ignore or manage the unwanted behavior. You need to make sure that your dog can’t do the unwanted behavior. If your dog is allowed to do something, even once, he will continue doing that. Whatever gets him what he is after, he will repeat the behavior over and over.
I do want to caution against ignoring unwanted behavior. If your dog is acting up out of fear or anxiety, he actually needs help from you or a veterinarian, professional trainer or behaviorist.
Step 3: Teach and reinforce the wanted behavior. This is the most important step in stopping any unwanted behavior; you have to reward the behavior you do want. If you want the dog to stop jumping up at people at the door, you will have to teach your dog what to do instead (sit, down, stay) and then reward it when the dog does it. You have to be very consistent!! Cannot let him say hi to people unless he is doing what you asked.
I cannot tell you what you should allow your dog or not. As long as a behavior isn’t dangerous, it’s up to you if you want the dog to do it or not. If you’re okay with your dog eating off your plate, that’s up to you. You can let them on your bed or not. They can bark at the door if you want them to. It is your dog and you can let them do what you want as long as it’s not dangerous.