Ten Reasons to Use Positive Reinforcement Training

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Positive reinforcement training provides us with an efficient way to train our pets. Here are 10 reasons to use it.

1. Speed

When you reward behaviors, you are giving your pet specific information that the behavior he performed was the correct behavior. This leads to quick learning, since your pet can focus on that specific behavior rather than worrying about receiving punishments for all of the possible incorrect behaviors he could try.

2. Positive Side Effects

Since your pet will receive things he likes, treats/toys/walks and so on, he will learn:

  • To enjoy the training process
  • To form a bond with you as the trainer
  • To associate hearing cues/signals and hands reaching towards him with good things, since they are paired with rewards.

This is a powerful tool and can prevent or eliminate other potential behavior problems from popping up during the training process. In contrast, force training (which we never recommend) can lead to negative side effects.

3. It’s Fun!

When we experience our pets learning new behaviors and getting excited about the rewards and process, it is reinforcing for us as well.

4. Quick Responding to Signals/Cues

You’ll get super quick responses to your signals if using rewards and correct technique. The rewards are an enticing form of motivation and it’s enjoyable for pets to attempt to earn them; this is especially noticeable in contrast to punishment, force-based methods, where pets can be frightened to respond or try new behaviors for fear of correction or pain.

5. Forming Positive Associations

You can use positive reinforcement training to help pets overcome fears and learn to accept body handling, like at the veterinarian, or to introduce puppies to new things during the socialization period, and because of its positive side effects, you don’t have to worry about creating new fears to anything.

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6. Setting Up for Success

Positive reinforcement training allows us to set up each training scenario we need, and prepare to teach the specific behavior we want our dog or cat to learn to perform in that situation – for example, teaching a sit stay at doorways, a coming when called/recall at 50 feet away off-leash, fetching a toy across the room, holding a stay for 2 minutes while dinner is prepared, and to allow us to test whether our pets can achieve these behaviors. If they can’t currently, then more repetitions of training can lead to the response needed.

7. You Can Start Right Away

All it takes is some simple rewards, so grab some kibble and work on teaching a new behavior before mealtime. Of course it helps to mix in different types of rewards over time: varying the type of treats offered, using higher value treats (your pet’s favorites), and using toys.

Once you understand the process of using positive reinforcement, you’ll notice it’s easy to incorporate into your daily life, and it can become a positive way of interacting with your pets in all situations, not just designated training sessions.

8. Science Supports It

The more research that is done into positive reinforcement training, the more benefits are discovered.

9. It Works!

Positive reinforcement training has proven to work with hundreds of animal species, and on every conceivable training problem including reactivity, severe forms of fear, separation anxiety, and aggression.

10. Our Pets Prefer It! Empathy is Valuable

When we consider how our best friend dog or cat would like to have us treat them, we find obviously that they rather receive rewards than harsh punishments. We know we rather be treated with respect, and can enjoy offering the same treatment to our pets while teaching them. Positive reinforcement training is a win-win process for us and animals.

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

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Positive reinforcement is the addition of a pleasant consequence that increases behavior.

Behaviors that are positively reinforced will increase (or maintain at its current level) over time, meaning an animal will attempt the same behavior again if it worked for him to earn something desirable. The reward is a consequence for the behavior, and a reason to perform the behavior again.

Rewards can consist of anything your dog or cat wants, including food, treats, toys, an opportunity to sniff something or greet a person/animal, or a walk outside the home.

Sometimes we intend to positively reinforce a behavior, but the reward we give at that specific time is not desired by our pet, so it doesn’t act as true reinforcement, and the behavior isn’t offered at an increased rate.

Therefore, it’s important to understand it’s the learner, the pet, who gets to decide whether a reward is reinforcing to him.

And just like with people, our pets can like certain foods sometimes and not as much other times. They have their individual preferences, they can feel like playing more than eating, or vice versa at any given time, so we can incorporate this knowledge into how we train our pets.