Training dogs using positive reinforcement is highly effective for the owner and incredibly soothing for the dog. Positive reinforcement is also the only method professionals use to train dangerous animals for circuses and cinema.
Advocates of positive reinforcement swear by the effectiveness of their techniques. Indeed, the vast majority of dogs respond well to these training methods.
Rewards Trigger Everyone’s Happiness
One reason that positive reinforcement training is so effective is that it uses rewards. This way, the pup knows exactly what you expect from him. When the dog performs the desired behavior, he is provided with a reward.
These rewards often come as a food treat, but they can also be a scratch, a rub, or a pat on the head. The important thing is that you reward the dog consistently for doing the right thing.
Reward training has become increasingly popular in recent years, but chances are some reward training between humans and dogs has been going on for hundreds if not thousands of years.
A Short History on Positive Reinforcement
When understanding what makes reward training so effective, some knowledge of the history of humans and dogs is crucial. The earliest dogs were wolf pups that were tamed and used by humans for protection from predators. Humans used these dogs as alarm systems and later for guarding and herding livestock.
It is also possible that the wolf pups were easily trained due to them most likely being orphaned or abandoned. Whatever their origin, there is little doubt that the wide variety of dogs we see today originate from the humble wolf.
Wolf packs, like packs of wild dogs, operate on a strict pack hierarchy. Since they hunt as a group is essential for them to cooperate to ensure the survival of the species. Every dog in the pack knows his or her place, and except in the event of death or injury, the hierarchy, once established, rarely changes.
Every dog, therefore, is hard-wired by nature to look to the pack leader for guidance. The basis of all good dog training is for the handler to set him or herself up as the pack leader. The pack leader is more than just the dominant dog or the one who tells everyone what to do. The pack leader provides leadership and protection, which ensures survival for the entire pack.
Learning from the Wolves
The dog needs to see itself as part of a pack, recognize the human as the leader of that pack, and respect his or her authority. Some dogs are much easier to dominate than others. If you watch a group of puppies playing for a little while, you will quickly recognize the dominant and submissive personalities.
A dog with a submissive personality will generally be easier to train using positive reinforcement. This is because he or she will not want to challenge the handler for leadership. Even dominant dogs respond very well to positive reinforcement. In fact, there are very few dogs that do not respond well to this type of training.
Positive reinforcement is also the best way to retrain a dog that has behavior problems. This is especially important for the ones that have been abused in the past. Getting the respect and trust of an abused dog can be very difficult, but positive reinforcement is the safest way to mending the wounds.
No matter what type of dog you are working with, chances are you can help it with positive reinforcement. Training your pup on love and trust rather than on intimidation and fear is the best way to get the most from him.