How To Use Treats For Positive Reinforcement Dog Training

When you’re bringing home a puppy or a new dog, one of the most important things you must do is train him. There are a variety of training methods out there, but some of them are not recommended because they just don’t work. Perhaps the most effective method is positive reinforcement dog training, using treats as a reward for good behavior. Let’s go over the basics about positive reinforcement dog training and how to use treats in conjunction to get the best results.

Related: How To Teach Your Dog The Recall Command

What is Positive Reinforcement Dog Training?

Positive reinforcement simply involves rewarding the dog for good behavior in order to encourage him to repeat it. For example, if you want to train your dog to do his business only in one section of the yard, you would take him over to that section when you let him outside and then reward him when he does his business there. It should only take a few repetitions for your dog to make the connection between the behavior and the reward, after which he will be eager to repeat the behavior in hopes of earning the reward.

Positive reinforcement is an element of operant conditioning, a type of conditioning developed by B.F. Skinner. Skinner originally used rats to develop his theories of operant conditioning and he experimented both with positive reinforcement and punishment. Whereas positive reinforcement involves the use of rewards to reinforce behavior, punishment is used to decrease the occurrence of a certain behavior. Because canines are much more likely to respond positively to rewards rather than punishment, positive reinforcement dog training methods are highly recommended.

Related: How To Find The Right Dog Trainer For You And Your Dog

Using Treats Correctly

When using positive reinforcement methods, there are right and wrong ways to use the food rewards such as treats. First, you should make sure that the treats are small so they do not significantly add to your dog’s overall daily caloric intake. Second, you should only reward the dog when he successfully performs the desired behavior. Give your dog the reward each time he responds appropriately for the first five or six times. By this time, your dog should have made the connection between the reward and the behavior. After this point you can start to phase out the food rewards.

Phasing Out Food Rewards

It is important to phase out the food rewards after your dog makes the connection between the behavior and the reward because you don’t want him to become dependent on the reward to perform the behavior. Once your dog has the hang of it, start to reward him only every other time. You should continue to praise your dog for behaving correctly and you can start to offer a toy or a few seconds of belly rubbing instead of the treat.

Positive reinforcement dog training methods are not only some of the easiest training methods to employ, but they are also highly effective. What kinds of treats do you use when training your dog? Do you find that a certain treat is more effective when it comes to training your dog? Share your training treat suggestions in the comment section below.