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Dog Training Methods: Positive Reinforcement

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What is positive reinforcement training?

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.

What type of training is best for the dog ?

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior emphasizes that animal training, behavior prevention strategies, and behavior modification programs should follow the scientifically based guidelines of positive reinforcement, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, desensitization, and counterconditioning. They recommend that veterinarians should not send dogs to trainers who practice dominance and submission theories. They also say that these punishment techniques should not be used on dogs.

Veterinary researchers have found that aggressive dogs who are trained using aversive techniques do not improve, in fact most of them get even more aggressive!

Victoria Stillwell provides a list of other research articles about positive reinforcement. I strongly suggest every dog owner to read her article The Science Behind Positive Training.

Positive reinforcement works on the basis that you reward (reinforce) the behavior you want and ignore (no reinforcement) for the behavior you don’t want.