A Short Description of the Power of Positive Reinforcement for Lasting Change
Please note: Before you read this, please read a more thorough and detailed explanation of operant condition/ clicker training. (Please see my article in featured content on my home site.)
One of the most important aspects of dog psychology is knowing when and how to reward your dog. The idea of positive reinforcement is a key strategy to training any pet, and science has proven that dogs have been known to respond remarkably well to this method.
If you are on your road to become a dog trainer or you have dabbled in some professional dog training videos and books, the concept you are bound to come across sooner or later is the idea of operant conditioning. It is a simply a fancy term that links a reward (called a reinforcement) with a positive behavioral trait. Every time your dog performs an action that is desirable, no matter how brief, he is rewarded with a click and treat. The receiving of the reward makes it more likely that he will repeat that desirable behavior.
This treat can be in the form of a toy or some delicious dog food. Over time, the dog will respond quicker when given the command, making operant conditioning an essential element of typical dog training classes.
The connection becomes very strongly rooted in the dog’s brain and with patience can become a permanent behavioral trait, so that your dog always does the behavior well when given the appropriate cue.
Every obedience school for dogs found on this planet most likely makes use of some form of operant conditioning (or should be) in their classes.
However, it is very simple to get started with this strategy in your very own home, where your dog feels most comfortable anyway. Simply click and reward (reinforce- again, check out my paper on Operant Conditioning) your little precious each and every time they perform a positive behavioral attribute. When they do a behavior on their own, that you approve of, always remember to strengthen this activity with that click and a treat.
It’s a good idea to make a list of foods and toys that your dog loves the most to help you find the best treats. It does make a difference in their response, to be rewarded with something that really does ring their bell.
The use of positive reinforcement can drastically speed up your dog’s training and can also make for fantastic, fun games. All your dog actually needs is validation in the form of a reward (consider it a pay check) for doing a good job. Just be sure that you never reward undesirable behavior in any way, shape, or form. Consistency is the key to making this technique work.