positive trainingby Humane Society for the United States (HSUS)

We all like to be praised rather than punished. The same is true for your dog, and that’s the theory behind positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means giving your pet something pleasant or rewarding immediately after she does something you want her to do, such as dog treats or dog toys. Because your praise or reward makes her more likely to repeat that behavior in the future, it is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.

Correct timing is essential when using positive reinforcement. The reward must occur immediately—within seconds—or your pet may not associate it with the proper action. For example, if you have your dog “sit” but reward her after she’s already stood back up, she’ll think she’s being rewarded for standing up.

Consistency is also essential. Everyone in the family should use the same commands. It might help to post these where everyone can become familiar with them. The most commonly used commands for dogs are:

  • “watch me”
  • “sit”
  • “stay”
  • “down” (which means “lie down”)
  • “off” (which means “get off of me” or “get off the furniture”)
  • “stand”
  • “come”
  • “heel” (or “let’s go” or “with me”)
  • “leave it”
  • “settle”

Consistency means always rewarding the desired behavior and never rewarding undesired behavior.

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