We all want well-behaved pets; perhaps even teaching them a few tricks too. While there are many tips to training our four-legged friends, the power of positive reinforcement in pet training is a technique anyone can adopt.

With just a few pet accessories, a little space, some time and a lot of patience, you can have your dog sitting, heeling and rolling over in no time. Your guests will also appreciate how well-behaved your pets are, not jumping up and causing chaos on their arrival.

Here are just some of the benefits of using positive reinforcement for training your pet, as well as a few tips to make the process as easy as possible. 

This article was written for this site by a guest author.

How does positive reinforcement in pet training work?

Positive reinforcement when training your pet refers to rewarding good behaviour, such as giving praise or treats. This is opposed to negative reinforcement training, such as scolding or even the use of some training collars to deter behaviour you don’t want. We all love out pets and want to show them how much we love them, rather than making them feel like they are letting us down or being naughty.

There are many benefits to positive reinforcement training for both your pet, yourself and your family. So, learning a few easy techniques can help you know what to do and when for the best results. 

Tips for using positive reinforcement in pet training

Like any form of training, there are some tricks to making sure you get the most out of positive reinforcement when training your furry friend. Here are a few key things to keep in mind: 

  • Give them the reward as soon as they show the behaviour correctly. This lets your four-legged friend know that behaviour leads to good things!
  • Choose a reward that caters to your pet’s preferences. For example, if your pet is loyal to the good ol’ treat, try to keep a little air-tight treat container around the house and in your bag to reward them on the go. Other pets enjoy a good scratch and rub, while others appreciate a shake of their favourite toy. How you reward your pet doesn’t matter, as long as your pet loves it.

Of course, things aren’t always going to go right when you’re training your pet; they’re learning. If they exhibit undesirable behaviour, do not reward the action, but also do not punish them. 

woman in gray shirt sitting on brown couch beside brown long coated dog doing positive reinforcement in dog training

The benefits of positive reinforcement in pet training

One reason positive reinforcement is one of the most recommended types of dog training is it helps build a strong bond with your pet. Many other techniques increase their stress levels, creating a fear-based relationship, rather than one of trust and love.

Positive reinforcement training is also easy to have the whole family get involved or do anywhere at any time. If your pet shows good behaviour while out on a walk, give them all the praise and make them feel special! Or, if they choose a good behaviour over a bad one (where they used to pee on the floor but chose to go outside), give them a toy or a treat to show them they did a good job. 

Using positive reinforcement is also easy for your guests to use, such as giving a dog a pat if it sits at their feet instead of jumping up. We all love a polite pet! 

Start simple

Remember, it will take time to train your pet, especially if you’re aiming for more advanced tricks as well as good behaviour. Starting simple and getting the basic commands (like sit, stay, drop and walk) is a good place to start as we will typically ask our furry friend to perform these actions every day.

Even if your pet only shows some progress, like not dropping all the way to the ground on command, still praise them to keep encouraging them. For some commands, like shaking a paw, it can be useful to say the command the first few times at the same time as picking up their paw, and then rewarding them. This shows them what you want to do. Then, you try it without you picking up their paw. 

It’s also best to keep your training sessions short as our pets’ attention spans can be short, especially if they get bored!

Be consistent

Consistency is key when it comes to positive reinforcement and pet training. Ensure everyone in your household is on board with the training and knows what behaviour is appropriate and expected, as well as what commands are being used. This helps your pet feel safe and secure and doesn’t unravel your training due to any confusion. 

And most importantly, be patient. Training takes time, especially if you’re teaching quite a young or old pet who is easily distracted or a bit stuck in their ways. Keep at it, and you will both get there.