How to Use Positive Reinforcement in Dog Training

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Positive reinforcement is a proven method for training and correcting dog behavior. You can apply this technique with a clear goal and a pocketful of Fido’s favorite treats.

Step 1: Understand the method
Understand the method of positive reinforcement. This training technique uses rewards of pea-sized treats and praise to encourage a desired behavior in a dog.

Experiment with different treats to find which elicits the best response.

Step 2: Develop a short command
Develop a short command for the behavior you want, such as sit, stay, down, come, or heel. Make sure all family members consistently use the same command.

Step 3: Reward dog immediately
Reward a dog with either a treat or verbal praise immediately for performing the desired behavior so they connect the action to the reward.

Keep training sessions short and fun to encourage dog and human bonding.

Step 4: Shape behavior
Shape behavior by achieving a desired action in phases. For example, first have your dog take a paw off the ground, then lift it higher, and finally shake with you.

Step 5: Use treats intermittently
Use treats as positive reinforcement intermittently once the dog has learned a new behavior. Gradually reduce treats from four out of five times to just occasionally, but continue to offer praise every time.

Step 6: Continue positive reinforcement
Use positive reinforcement over time to maintain the desired behavior. Gentle reward-based training will help you create a range of acceptable pet behavior, making your dog a trustworthy friend and reliable companion.

Did You Know?
In 2006, author John Grogan made his badly behaved dog a star with his bestselling memoir, Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog.