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Positive reinforcement in dog training

 If you just have a dog or are new to dog training, this dog57 article is for you. It covers the definition, practical issues, reasons for using positive reinforcement, and some common mistakes people make when using it. Positive reinforcement is fun, rewarding, and highly effective.




What is positive reinforcement?

Positive reinforcement is a very effective way to train dogs (and other animals).
Positive reinforcement means adding something immediately after a behavior that increases the frequency of that behavior.
Technically, this term consists of two parts. Reinforcement means continuing or increasing the frequency of the behavior. (If the behavior fades away and is not repeated, it is not a reinforcer.)
And positive means to add something.
For example, you ask the dog to sit and the dog sits and gives him a reward (something added). And the next time you ask, the dog is more likely to sit down (the frequency of the behavior increases).

What is used as a reward in positive reinforcement?

For dog training, the best reward is food. Because all dogs love to eat and it is effective because you can give it quickly.
Play is also sometimes used as a reinforcer in training. For example, a game of drag or fetch games. You may have seen some working dogs or agility training rewarded with a game of tractor.

However, in practice, food is best for most everyday training situations. You can get it quickly (think of how long it takes for a tug vs. how quickly the treats disappears in a dog's mouth). This means that you can do many repetitions in a short time. In addition, the game may sometimes interfere with the learning process.

Kindness and praise are also sometimes offered as rewards. But you have to think about it from a dog's point of view — and yes, scientists have thought about it, too. One study found that dogs may not be interested in praise. It should always mean something to the dog. For example, if "Well done!" is always accompanied by a treat, then they will know that this portends pleasure; But other than that, it might be useless.

Most dogs love to pet, but the same scientists have found that dogs prefer food to pets in training. And if you're wondering, other studies have compared food to foreplay as a reward in dog training. They also found that food leads to better outcomes. Thus, food is the best reward as positive reinforcement.





What food should I use as a booster?

There is a large variety of options, from foods you can buy at the pet store, to human-friendly food for dogs, and even foods you can make yourself.
Choose something your dog likes because that will better stimulate him. Of course, treatment should be combined with a balanced diet in general. You can also change the rewards to provide a variety or choose the right type for a particular task.

For example, if you exercise a lot, small cubes of boiled chicken may be the most appropriate option because it is a healthy component of a dog's diet. Or you can use small treats to prevent your dog from overeating (especially small dogs). In other cases, cutting cheese or cold cuts may be an option in moderation. Use the tastiest rewards to learn challenging skills like communication.

Examples of foods you can use for a boost are: chicken nuggets, boiled beef, cheese cubes, dried offal and fish treats, carrots, peanut butter, tuna, pet store-bought foods, sausages, sausage (not greasy!), Pork, etc.

Did any of these foods cause you to salivate profusely?

That's fine because that's the effect you want to achieve in your dog! Of course, do not use whole sausages at once. The reward should be the size of a pea. Try several treatment options to see what your dog likes.

As you know, cats should not be fed dog food, however, cat food will not harm dogs, and many dogs like salted bits more than dry cat food.
If you're buying a treat at a pet store, read the ingredients list to make sure it's right for your dog.

Make sure the treatment is safe for your dog. If you're using human food as a treat, make sure it doesn't contain onions (which can be found in some meat and other products) and xylitol (like some types of peanut butter), which are not safe for dogs.

If you prefer to make dessert yourself, there are plenty of recipes on the Internet for its preparation. In addition, many of the components in it are interchangeable.

How can I use positive reinforcement if my dog is on a special (therapeutic) diet?

If your dog is on a special diet, you can still use treats as a reward. One option is to use canned foods from the same group of treats that you feed your dog. (If you are giving it from a spoon, be careful not to injure your dog, and teach him to lick food, or use a poop.)
Another option might be to use an ingredient in the diet (fish or whatever). You can also design a recipe for homemade treats to suit your dog's needs.





What do professional coaches use as a bonus?

I asked Kristi Benson what reward she uses when training dogs. Kristi is a dog trainer from Manitoba, Canada, and a staff member of the Kennel Academy.
She said, “I like to use food, and the types of food I like are things that can be cut into small pieces and dogs can eat quickly so we can continue training right away. I also like to use foods that dogs like, sometimes smelly foods like smoked fish. Sometimes I use cheese. Sometimes I buy fast food, I know it's not very healthy food, so I don't use it often.

I also use some of the treat recipes popular with dog lovers, like tuna or liver crackers. I have a favorite egg treat because we have a lot of eggs from the local farm.”
And I will remind you, “I use the tastiest treat to train my dog to call because it's the easiest. I recommend that clients stock something special (like tuna pie) to better stimulate the dog and serve something really tasty.”

What is not positive reinforcement?

People sometimes mistake the moment when something unpleasant stops as positive reinforcement. this is not true. For example, some trainers who use a shock collar say that when the shock stops, it is a reward for the dog. this is not true.
Relief is not like a reward!
Remember: Positive reinforcement means adding something. Stopping something is the opposite of adding something.
It's worth being on the lookout for because there are a lot of confusing words about "conflict-free training" and other misinformation about dog training.
Since there is no regulation for dog trainers, owners need to be well informed.

But my dog ​​is not a food worker!

This is something every coach should listen to from time to time. If this is true and your dog is not interested in food, you should take him to the vet. If your dog is not eating, he may have some type of medical problem that needs to be examined and treated.

Often, when people talk about it, it turns out that the food they are using does not stimulate the dog. For example, they give her dry food pellets, which she already receives twice a day - this may not be enough to motivate the dog.
This is a common mistake people who are new to training make. If this applies to you, see the list above for some treatment options. You will likely have to try several options to see what your dog likes best and remember that this variety can help you too.

Sometimes people are reluctant to use food to train dogs, which is why they use dry food. Some people worry that this may affect their relationship with the dog - perhaps they fear that their dog does not like them if the food is to be used to make them obey. But your dog can love you and love food, and there's an fMRI study to prove it.

And when you see your dog looking so happy and anticipating when he wants a biscuit, doesn't that make you feel warm?

Perhaps you should help your dog by knowing what to feed an anorexic dog?





Why use positive reinforcement in dog training?

Several studies show that people who use positive reinforcement training describe their dogs as more obedient than those who use aversive methods. Using positive reinforcement improves bonding with the dog and has a better effect on his safety than using negative reinforcement. In addition, prior learning experience with positive reinforcement is associated with better success in learning new behaviors.

Conversely, the use of punishment is associated with aggressive reactions in some dogs, and the use of aversive methods is a risk factor for the development of aggression towards family members and strangers.
While these studies are correlative and do not prove causation, there are a few things that could explain this. First, positive reinforcement teaches your dog what to do, not just punish the behavior (which it doesn't teach a new behavior at all).

Another point is that punishment can be stressful for the dog, and if you associate the owner as a reason for punishment, it can negatively affect the relationship with the owner.


Another reason to use positive reinforcement: Dogs love to work to earn a reward. And now scientists are recommending that they need a positive experience for the animal's better welfare.
Therefore, using positive reinforcement in training is beneficial for your dog.

Why does positive reinforcement not work?


If you're thinking, "I tried positive reinforcement and it didn't work!" There are many possible reasons for this.

Perhaps the most common reason is the use of the wrong reward to motivate the dog. Go back to the list of good things and choose something tastier. But there are many other possible causes as well.

You may not plan for classes. You will get the best results if you create and follow a lesson plan. You may not give rewards fast enough. For example, you ask your dog to lie down, but by the time you get the reward, he has already woken up, so you have been rewarded for the misbehavior. You need to learn how to give rewards as soon as possible by following the desired behavior.


Or, conversely, knowing that you need to reward the dog as quickly as possible, move your hand into the reward bag before the dog obeys the command. It might confuse her. The dog reacts to the movement of your hand as a signal. Or maybe you've given your dog too much of a challenge. It often appears that the dog has already learned the desired behavior after several repetitions. It is like learning to waltz by learning the movements, but a few good attempts are not enough to learn how to waltz; It requires more practice. Your dog also needs more training.

And speaking of practice, you should also introduce distracting stimuli very slowly. Just because your dog can follow the command to sit in a room when nothing else is going on doesn't mean he can do it in the garden when other dogs, children, or even a squirrel are running around. it is very difficult!

That's all you can work on, but dog training is a difficult skill and you have nothing to be ashamed of if you fail. You may need to seek help from a qualified dog trainer or join a training group. Since dog training is unstructured, make sure that the trainer you want to contact is not using hateful methods, but working on positive reinforcement.






But the trainer says it doesn't apply to my dog?!

Some trainers claim that “positive reinforcement does not work” or “will not work for your dog” as an attempt to justify the use of an ESHO, a solid collar, or a choke (control device).

First of all, remember that dog training is unregulated. Some coaches simply do not know how to work in other ways, and therefore consider positive reinforcement to be ineffective. In addition, the old traditional training school, which is still often found among trainers, believes that dogs are not able to control themselves and understand what is required of them, only with the help of jerks and pressure.

Second, it is important to know that there are risks when using stun collars. One UK study found that ESPs were no more effective than positive reinforcement for training dogs to contact. They also found negative effects on the well-being of some dogs.
Take care of your dog and don't let the trainer use training methods you don't like.

Should I use a clicker?

It's up to you.
The clicker is used to determine the moment the dog performs the correct behavior. This is very fast, so it allows you to delay the moment the dog is given a reward (not in the same second, but after a few seconds).
Some people like to use the clicker. They also find it helps improve their technique (perhaps because they pay close attention to when to click and not move until then).

Some people do not like Persians. They find it impolite, uncomfortable, or too difficult. Fortunately for them, there is a study that found that there was no difference in learning success between using a clicker or a verbal sign or no sign (only treats).

For fast and fleeting behavior, a tag (a click or a sound) will help you. But for many of the other commands we teach a dog, like sitting or lying down, it's entirely possible to get them with just a reward.
The most important thing is to use nutritional supplements to train your dog. If you have tried the clicker, you may enjoy using it. But if it doesn't work out for you, don't worry about it. Just keep using the remedy.





Should I always use positive reinforcement?

This is a common question and can easily be answered with another question: Do you want your dog to continue this behavior? If the answer is yes, then you should continue to reward it.

Now you can't be rewarded every time. Using an intermittent schedule of reinforcement (when the behavior is sometimes rewarded and sometimes not) can help increase the behavior's resistance to extinction (when the behavior stops). This is useful because in real life there may be a situation where you forget to deal with yourself.

But this is a very common mistake when a person completely stops rewarding the behavior. The result is that the dog stops following the command and people say: I tried but it didn't work. This is called vanishing: You taught your dog to do something because you stopped rewarding this behavior.

Another common mistake is that you don't reward behavior enough.
Remember that dogs love to work for food and you still have to feed your dog. Therapy training is a good way to train your dog's brain and provide an enriching environment. Instead of stopping to reward, it is better to keep thinking of new things that you can teach your dog.

Positive reinforcement in training other animals

With positive reinforcement, you can train cats, rats, chickens, and even fish and crabs! It is positive reinforcement that animals in zoos are trained to accustom them to medical procedures or to move in the right direction.
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