Ways to Encourage Positive Behavior in Your Dog
We love our dogs beyond words. They’re our best friends on four legs, and we’d do just about anything for them.
But they can also be little stinkers.
Training your dog can be challenging, to say the least, and a massive piece of the puzzle is figuring out how you can reinforce your pup’s positive habits. Here are some of our favorite tricks to help improve your pet’s behavior through positive reinforcement.
Providing the Right Environment
Before you can expect your dog to listen to your commands or behave a specific way, you must make sure you’re setting them up for success. Your dog’s environment has a significant impact on their behavior, so it’s your job to ensure that they’re as receptive to training as possible.
Providing the right environment helps to bolster the bond between you and your dog, which in turn will likely make your training sessions more successful.
1. Make time for your pup
This may seem like a given because you already know that dogs of any age are a serious time commitment. However, a dog’s negative behavior is often a result of boredom or anxiety.
If you aren’t already taking your dog on a daily walk and setting aside time to play with them, start by carving out some extra time with them. We get it—sometimes the day gets away from you. But trying to give your dog some of your energy at the end of a long day can help prevent boredom-induced behaviors like chewing or digging.
2. Keep a routine
Like humans, dogs respond positively to routine. The more you can keep your dog on a regular schedule, the more they’ll trust you. Additionally, daily patterns can help reduce anxiety in dogs.
3. Exercise their minds
Dogs don’t just need physical exercise; they also need mental stimulation. Finding ways to challenge your dog’s brain can help keep them occupied while increasing the cognitive skills that will help them remember commands later.
Instead of the regular game of fetch, you can give your dog a puzzle toy to play with. Or you can sign your pup up for a professional training course in something like agility, rally, or scent.
4. Watch your attitude
We understand how frustrating it can be when your pet just won’t listen. However, if you start to take your anger out on your dog, you’ll stifle any potential progress you could have made.
During training sessions, it’s essential to stay as patient as possible and keep a calm voice. We even recommend smiling at your dog. You’ll get much farther with a positive attitude than with yelling.
Remember, while you want your dog to respect and listen to you, you don’t want them to fear you.
Now that you’ve created the right environment, you can start positive reinforcement training!
Positive reinforcement is a force-free training style, which has become increasingly popular among trainers in recent years because it seems to be more effective with canines than force-based training methods.
There are two primary methods used in positive reinforcement training:
1. Positive reinforcement through praise and/or a treat
This method is simple: if your dog does something good (responding to a command, using the bells by the back door to signal that they need to go to the bathroom), you give them praise and/or a treat.
This helps your pup associate good behavior with a reward, encouraging them to perform the same behavior in the future.
2. Negative punishment through withholding a reward
Note that negative punishment is NOT about scolding, yelling, or physically punishing your dog when they aren’t behaving the way you’d like them to. Negative punishment is simply withholding a reward when your dog does something wrong or doesn’t listen to your command.
Most people will use both methods during positive reinforcement training.
Once you have your dog’s favorite treats in hand, you can begin working on basic commands (sit, stay, lay down, drop it), walking decorum, and greeting people at the door.
Bringing in the professionals
Sometimes in-home positive reinforcement training isn’t enough, and you need to bring in some professional help. That’s totally okay—we’ve seen our fair share of stubborn dogs.
Our incredible trainers at Ruffgers Dog University can help you and your dog get on the same page. We’ll give you the confidence to positively discipline your dog and help your pup understand your commands.
We offer obedience courses at our three locations covering everything from canine good citizenship to pet manners to reactive responses. If you’re not sure where to start, contact our team to discuss which class will be the best fit for your pup.