Who says that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Positive reinforcement is a very effective method of training your dog to perform a variety of tasks. This method entails providing your dog with a reward after they perform the desired task, which helps them to understand that what they are doing is a good thing! And what better a reward than their favorite flavor of treats? Whether you’re having issues training your dog to sit on command, or you’re at the point where you want a high-five on command, these tips will help you on the road to a well-trained pup!
Tip #1: The Timing
When rewarding your dog for a task completed, whether it be sitting, lying down, staying, coming, etc., make sure the reward is immediate. Your dog needs to understand exactly what they are being rewarded for. If you have your dog lay down and you reward them when they stand back up, there is a chance they’ll associate the reward with the action of getting up, which is not the desired act. Reward them while they are still lying down to help them better understand!
Tip #2: The Speech
When rewarding your dog for a completed action, always accompany the treat with a phrase of encouragement. A short phrase like “good dog!” or “good puppy!” is highly effective, and can be used after you’ve weaned your dog off of treat rewards. However, it is very important that when you decide on a positive phrase you stick with it. Your dog will learn to associate that specific phrase with a positive action. This is especially important if you have a family or guests that interact with your furry friend on a daily basis. Make sure your chosen phrase is simple and short as well, as a longer phrase can confuse your dog and make association that much more difficult.
Tip #3: The Reward
We highly recommend small dog treats as a reward. It is important that the treat be small enough that your dog can eat it without breaking it into smaller pieces and eating it off the floor. This is due to the important immediacy of the reward. By the time your dog breaks it into smaller pieces and engulfs them one by one, they could forget why exactly they received the treat! Also, don’t be afraid to vary up the type and flavor of treats you provide as a reward. Keeping your dog on their toes (paws?) about what type of treat they’re going to receive can encourage positive behavior.
If you have a puppy, we encourage you to start positive reinforcement as soon as possible. Establishing these precedents from the beginning will make training that much easier in the long run. However, if you find yourself with a mischief makin’ older pup, there’s no need to fret. Despite the saying, we firmly believe that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks! Just remember – try not to get frustrated if your dog doesn’t catch on right away. Proper training takes time, patience, and dedication!
Jonathan Pack is the owner of Ruff NYC an online pet supply store dedicated to making shopping for pet supplies easier for those living in cities. He has extensive experience in dog training, and helped turned his ill tempered beagle-basset mix into one well-mannered hound.