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How to Positively Train Your Dog

Written by: Kassie Dickson, CDBC, CPDT-KA

The Art of Positive Training 

There’s a whole lot of information to sort through when it comes to dog training. Dog training isn’t regulated, what that means is anyone can be a dog trainer. Without certification, credentials, or appropriate governing bodies. So we’re going to walk you through the meaning behind “positive training” or “positive reinforcement training”.

What is positive reinforcement training?

Positive reinforcement is a quadrant of the learning theory Operant Conditioning, a theory popularized by B.F Skinner. The theory states that a subject learns based on their response to events in the environment. Those responses are represented by four quadrants, Positive reinforcement, Positive punishment, Negative reinforcement, and Negative punishment.

The theory states that in order to learn we need reinforcement (increase) or punishment (decrease) through introduction (positive) or removal (negative). So all the behaviour theory aside, Positive reinforcement means to introduce a stimulus (like a treat) in order to increase (reinforce) a behaviour.

So when someone says they choose positive reinforcement training, it means they’ve chosen to train primarily with the principle of rewarding wanted behaviours. Science has shown that positive reinforcement based training is the most humane and up to date method as it takes into account our dog’s emotional needs.

A trainer that has chosen to base their work in positive reinforcement training typically has committed to continuing their education and follows scientifically-proven methods to train complicated behaviour issues as well as simple cue response exercises.

In a nutshell, positive reinforcement training typically means a trainer uses this quadrant in learning first or chooses to avoid aversive training methods, fear-based, or intimidation-based training like the dominance theory and attempt to train based on learner responses.

How do I train my dog positively?

The first step to starting with positive reinforcement training is to find a trainer who is transparent about their methods, continues their education through reputable sources and is comfortable explaining their knowledge and methods throughout the process. Once you’ve found a trainer, they will set you on the right track but continue your own research and ensure the training you do fits you and your dog's ethics and needs. In order for positive reinforcement to work, the learner needs to find it positive!

What is a positive punishment in dog training?

Positive Punishment is another quadrant and it means to introduce (positive) punishment(decrease). SO positive punishment is the act of introducing something to the environment in order to stop a behaviour. Examples are things like “corrections” leash popping, yelling at your dog, spraying water at your dog, physical reprimands, and the like.

The most up to date research shows us that physical punishment is the least effective way to train your dog and can have risks associated.

Can I train my dog myself?

Yes! And you absolutely should, training your dog is fun, rewarding and helps to build a great relationship. You should train your own dog with the help of a professional. It’s actually best for you to train your pup as you’re their primary caregiver. They will be likely to learn faster and generalize with greater ease when they learn in their normal environment with the people they are most familiar with. Additionally, asking for help to train your dog will be the best decision you make.

Count on Super PawBox for treats and training guides that help create a positive puppy training process.

For more tips on training and puppyhood, check out Puppy Training 101 and Loose Leash Walking.

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