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Using Rewards and Positive Reinforcement to Train Your Dog

Using Rewards and Positive Reinforcement to Train Your Dog

Training dogs using rewards and positive reinforcement has long been recognized as both highly effective for the owner and a constructive experience for the dog. Positive reinforcement training is so vital that it’s the only method used to train dangerous animals like lions and tigers for work in circuses and within the film and television industry.

Proponents of positive reinforcement swear by the effectiveness of their techniques and it’s true that the vast majority of dogs respond well to these methods. When the dog performs the desired behavior, he is provided with a reward, most often within the form of a food, or treat, however it could very well be a scratch behind the ears, a rub below the chin, or a pat on the head. The important thing is that the dog is rewarded constantly for doing the right thing.

Reward training has become popular in the recent years but the likelihood is that this type of training has been going on for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
When understand what makes reward training so efficient, some information of the history of humans and dogs may be helpful. The earliest canines were most likely wolf pups that were tamed and used early by early humans for protection from predators, first as alarm systems and later, for guarding and herding livestock. It is possible that the wolf pups that made the most effective companions were either easily trained or abandoned wolf pups. No matter their origin, there is little doubt today that the vast number of dogs we see right now have their origin inside the humble wolf.

Wolf packs, like packs of untamed dogs, operate on a strict pack hierarchy. Since wolf and dog packs hunt as a group, this type of hierarchy and the cooperation it brings is essential to the survival of the species. Every dog within the pack knows his or her place and except for the event of death or injury the hierarchy, as soon as it’s established, is not often changed.

Due to this fact, it is hard-wired by nature for dogs to look to the pack leader for guidance. The premise of all good dog training, including reward coaching, is for the handler to set him or herself up as the pack leader. The pack leader is more than just the dominant dog, or one who tells all the subordinates what to do. The pack leader provides management and safety to the pack which is significant to the success and survival of the pack.

It will be important for the dog to see itself as part of a pack, to recognize the human as the leader of that pack, and to respect the owner’s authority. Some dogs are a lot easier to train than others. If you happen to watch a group of puppies playing together for a short time, you will quickly recognize the dominant and submissive personalities.

A dog with a more submissive personality will generally be easier to train with positive reinforcement since he or she will not want to challenge the handler for leadership. But dominant dogs can respond well to this type of training too.
Positive reinforcement training can also be one the best ways to retrain a dog that has behavior problems, especially from being abused in the past. Getting the respect and trust of an abused dog may be very difficult but this training is healthier than some of the other training methods out there.

It doesn’t matter what type of dog you are working with, chances are high with this type of training. Primarily based on respect and trust rather than on intimidation and fear, positive reinforcement training is the best way to get the most from the dog.

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