Positive training - Vittorio Delogu
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Positive training

Positive training

The Four Pillars of Positive Training:


  1. The use of positive reinforcement
  2. Avoiding the use of intimidation, physical punishment or fear
  3. A comprehension of the often misunderstood concept of dominance
  4. A commitment to understanding the canine experiencefrom the dog’s point of view

What is it?

Remember how happy you were if your parents gave you a dollar for every A on your report card? They made you want to do it again, right? That’s positive reinforcement.
Dogs don’t care about money. They care about praise, toys and food. Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do. Because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.
This is done through a marker for correctness and timing, paired with a reward that is reinforcing to the dog. The marker can be a clicker, a simple device that when pressed makes a distinct, consistent sound, or a short word such as “yes,” “good,” or “smart.”

Positive or negative reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement means that if you reward a behavior you like, there is a better chance of that behavior being repeated. When paired with negative punishment (the removal or withholding of something the dog wants like food, attention, toys, or human contact for a short period of time) or using a vocal interrupter to redirect negative behavior onto a wanted behavior and to guide a dog into making the right choices, these methods are a foundational element of the core of positive training. Traditional, old school trainers often argue that positive training shows weakness and a lack of leadership, but the truth is that the most respected and successful leaders are able to effect change without the use of force.
Many who promote old-school training techniques argue that the punishment they dish out in the form of an electric shock or a swift kick to a dog’s ribs is not particularly damaging. There are indeed varying degrees of punishment, and everyone ultimately must make their own choice regarding how far they are willing to go. But most well-adjusted people would rather avoid doing anything that will make your dog feel pain or fear if they can help it, regardless of how minimal that punishment may be.

How to give a positive reward?

The reward can be food of different values. For instance, a high-value treat might be premium, chewy, soft dog treats and a low-value treat might be kibble. Rewards can also be toys, praise, petting, or play, as long as the dog is motivated to work for it.

The correct behavior is “marked” as soon as it happens, and the reward follows the marker. The dog learns to associate the marker with the reward, producing positive outcomes in the dog’s behavior.

– Timing is everything. Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your pet may not associate it with the proper action.
– Keep it short. Dogs don’t understand sentences. “Daisy, I want you to be a good girl and sit for me now” will likely earn you a blank stare. Keep commands short and uncomplicated.

Here is a breakdown of what most dogs would define as their hierarchy of rewards:

At home with few distractions use low-value: kibble, carrots, ice cubes, green beans, or dry biscuits.

In your yard use medium-value: commercial training treats or meaty-type treats.

At the park use high value-treats, like premium chewy, soft dog treats with great flavors/smells such as peanut butter, salmon, and chicken.

The Psychology Behind Positive Reinforcement.

The psychological principle of positive reinforcement training is a process known as operant conditioning, a system of learning in which a reward or punishment is added or removed, resulting in the increase or decrease of a specific behavior. Positive reinforcement training concentrates on the addition of a reward to increase the likelihood of a behavior in the dog.

Initiated in the 1940s by psychologist and behaviorist B.F. Skinner, this method of dog training did not take hold until the 1990s. Since its reemergence, however, positive reinforcement dog training has become part of mainstream animal training and is consistently gaining in popularity.

Converts to this method of reinforcement training believe it works better than more traditional training methods that are based on dominance and punishment. Rather than asking a dog to behave out of fear of reprisal, positive reinforcement encourages the dog to behave because it is more rewarding and fun.
This creates a stronger bond, based on mutual trust and respect, between owner and dog and allows for clearer communication between the two. Proponents also see an increase of willingness to work, eagerness to please, and increased rate of learning.

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