|For Shelters &
|Labels & Language|
|How Dogs Learn|
|The Name Game|
|Sit & Sit Stay|
|For Dog Owners|
Dogs learn through consequences, just like humans do. Our training handouts teach dogs by using positive reinforcement, such as treats and praise, to increase desired behaviors, like sitting and staying.
After you determine what to use as a positive reinforcer with your dog, you can then utilize it to strengthen your dog’s behavior in various scenarios by presenting the desired item immediately following your dog’s actions. By rewarding them for their behavior, your dog will be more likely to repeat his actions the next time he encounters a similar situation.
Dogs can also reinforce themselves by acquiring something they want on their own.
In order to control what your dog is rewarded for (instead of letting your dog reward himself for unwanted behaviors) you’ll need to manage positive reinforcements by setting your dog up for success. You can do this by putting away items you don’t want your dog to have (such as food, shoes, or children’s toys) or restricting your dog’s access to these items by using gates or crates.
TIPS FOR USING POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT EFFECTIVELY
The most common and effective secondary reinforcers are marker words (such as “yes”) and clickers. We can quickly deliver a well-timed “yes” or a click within a second of our dog performing the desired behavior. This quick and clear message helps dogs learn effectively. Using an audible secondary reinforcer establishes a very clear message of approval and provides us with a moment to deliver the primary reinforcer, the treat or toy.
Once your dog is consistently and successfully performing the desired behavior, you can switch to an intermittent (or varied) schedule, which means that your dog is reinforced only occasionally. For example, you could give them a treat every other time they sit, then every third time, then a couple times in a row, etc.
This variation will help a behavior to ‘stick’ because your dog will never know when a treat is coming, so he’ll continue to work, in the hopes that the next time will pay off.
Why vary the reinforcement after your dog learns a new command? A dog who has had continuous reinforcement every single time he performs a behavior, will quickly notice if the reinforcement stops. He may try this behavior a few times, but if no reinforcer is forthcoming, he’ll eventually stop trying and this behavior becomes extinct.
Giving rewards intermittently will make your dog want the treats more and will continue to try, even if they aren’t rewarded the first time they’ve successfully performed the behavior. The will allow your dog to get used to working even when there isn’t a reward.
For example: When teaching a dog to sit, put a treat to your dog’s nose, then lift the treat over the dogs head and his rear end will touch the ground. You’re luring him into a sitting position with the treat.
For example: If you wanted your dog to pick up your keys and hand them to you, you would use shaping by marking and rewarding the dog just for sniffing the keys. Once your dog is consistently sniffing the keys, wait for him to mouth them, then reward that small step. Once he is mouthing the keys consistently, only reward him for picking them up with his mouth.