Positive Reinforcement Training & the Importance of Nutritious Treats
Training your new pup can be a wonderful bonding experience. It'll help shape the rest of your lives together and the behaviors that will stick with them. But, with training comes hard work and it's important to understand your dog and how they will best learn.
Positive reinforcement training is a treat-heavy process, especially in the early puppy stages. Traditional treats tend to be filled with fat and sugar. When you're working on training consistently, you don't want to be filling your dog with what is essentially junk food.
Proper reinforcement training combined with healthy, nutritious rewards is the best thing for your pet. In this article, we'll share training tips & how to source these nutritious treats!
Positive Reinforcement - What Is It?
Remember when you were a kid and your parents would let you have that ice cream cone or piece of candy for dessert if you ate all your vegetables from dinner first? That's positive reinforcement.
At its core, positive reinforcement is a type of training that does not involve harsh consequences, but instead focuses on rewarding good behavior. A source of praise, or desirable stimulus, is presented after a certain behavior is performed. In doing so, the desired stimulus encourages reinforcement of that displayed behavior, so your dog will pick up on what desired behaviors you are requesting and will eventually become a learned behavior.
Positive reinforcement is a well-loved training method, as it helps in establishing communication and can even strengthen bonds, trust, and respect between you and your dog.
Why Positive Reinforcement?
Just as positive reinforcement training introduces something to strengthen the likelihood of a behavior, negative reinforcement removes something in order to do the same. So why is one better than the other?
While both training techniques have their strengths, positive reinforcement reinforces what your dog is doing right, rather than what they are doing wrong. Punishments can get your dog to stop doing a certain behavior, but they won't know what you are wanting them to do instead.
That why positive reinforcement works more efficiently in getting a desired behavior during training. Just like in any academic setting, you'll want to avoid negative training tactics that could cause confusion or may hinder their learning process.
How to Train Your Dog With Positive Reinforcement
Reinforcement training is especially useful for situations where your dog needs a little extra behavioral training such as on walks, to discourage barking, jumping, chasing, or even for potty-training or other miscellaneous tricks.
Getting started with positive reinforcement is the hardest part - then, it's all about consistency. We've put together a list of tips, tricks, and things to consider when getting your dog started with positive reinforcement training.
Stick to Short, Verbal Commands
Talking to your dog in complete sentences with proper grammar won't get you anywhere. We want to be clearly understood, but dogs don't respond to language the same way we do, and most likely you'll be met with a blank (yet adoring) stare.
To avoid frustration, it might be best to stick with short, one or two word verbal commands and focus on incorporating body language to showcase your intentions. Hand signals aren't just for show. Dogs are responsive to our body language just as much as that key word command - that's why using a hand signal such as a downward motion for "sit" is widely recommended, as the movement gives your dog something to associate verbal commands with - and thus, a reward if they follow through.
Some simple, common words to try out may be:
- down (lay down)
- up (jump up, kennel up, stand up)
- off (get off, no jump)
- watch (eyes on me)
- out (drop it, leave it)
Find a Motivator/Reward Method
You'll want to find a motivator, or desired stimulus, that works for your dog. Most often, the go-to motivator are treats. Make sure to go with a treat that isn't just empty calories such as Raw Bistro's dehydrated dog food - complete and balanced, these meals make a great treat option and can even replace a full meal.
But what if your pup does not seem interested in treats? Some dogs are not as responsive to treats and it can be more difficult to keep their attention. Using other reward methods such as toys or praise can prove to be just as effective as food.
Know When To Give Treats
You don't want to wait to reward. Praise should be given immediately - within a range of a few seconds of the desired behavior, or else your dog may get confused on which response you are encouraging.
This way you'll avoid mindlessly giving them treats that they don't have any behavior to associate with - or mistake the behavior you are encouraging for one that is undesired.
For example, if you are trying to get your dog to "lay down" and your dog lays but gets back up again, do not give them a treat until they are back in a laying position. If you reward no matter what, they won't be able to associate the act of laying down with earning praise.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Having a new puppy is tons of fun, but it's no piece of cake. We know that training the newest member of your family can get frustrating at times, especially if they have endless amounts of energy to expel.
The best thing you can do is to keep your patience. It may be easier said than done, but getting frustrated with your dog will only create a rift in your training. If you're having trouble getting a desired response, slow it down or try a different reward method.
If you're looking to get some in-person professional guidance, there are many training programs that specialize in positive reinforcement training that may be a good fit for you and your dog.
Consistency = Efficiency
Staying consistent in your training is the most important aspect of shaping any behavior. This means that everyone in your household should use the same cues and reward the same behaviors or else your dog may get confused.
Being consistent also means rewarding the desired behavior correctly, and not giving your dog a reward randomly when they have not carried out a desired behavior.
Raw Bistro Treats Your Dog Will Drool Over
Our entree line of dehydrated dog food doubles as the perfect training treat. Why do we love them over other traditional treats? They offer full nutrition (no empty calories), break easily for reward giving, won't crumble in your pocket, and they smell great!
Traditional treats can be filled with fats and sugar that your dog doesn't need - instead, opt for a high value training treat that you can feel good about. As an additional plus, dehydrated food can be a convenient shelf stable option, perfect for traveling or other situations where you just need a little treat to keep in your pocket.
Whether you're a pro dog trainer or just getting started training your first puppy, positive reinforcement combined with nutritious treats is extremely important to remember when training your dog. Check out Raw Bistro's different meal options to pick out the perfect training treat to get started off right.