Training your dog is beneficial for a number of reasons. As well as improving their behaviour and obedience, training is a fantastic way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog, and also plays an important role in keeping their mind active – an active dog is a happy dog.
We all expect certain behaviours from our pets and have a set of rules they must follow. However, your dog needs to truly understand and be taught those rules before you can expect it to follow them.
Reward-based training is one of the most effective training methods as it uses positive reinforcement to praise good behaviour.
What is reward based training?
By rewarding your dog with something they want, be that a treat, a favourite toy, or simply some positive love and attention, they will begin to associate their behaviour with the reward they receive. This reinforces good behaviour as your dog will want to be rewarded again and again.
Repeating this process will help your dog understand the command or behaviour that is resulting in the reward. For example, if you are training your dog to sit, you will give the command and then reward them immediately after they successfully perform the action. After enough training, your dog will be able to respond to the command with less or no reward required.
Top tips for reward based training
Choose the right reward
It’s important to know what your dog really wants so you can make the reward something they are willing to work for. Some dogs will prefer treats, while others might respond better to a favourite toy, for example.
Timing is key
The sooner you reward your dog for their action the easier it is for them to link the behaviour with the reward. Try rewarding your dog during good behaviour or immediately after for best results.
Keep it short and simple
This works in two ways; firstly, try training for short periods of time so your dog doesn’t lose interest. Secondly, the behaviour or skill you are teaching them should be simple with a command that is easy to understand, for example, sit, stay, or wait.
Your dog is going to make mistakes when learning a new trick or behaviour, it’s all part of the process. Simply ignore any mistakes and reward your pet the next time they get it right.
Never use punishment
Punishment should never be used when training your dog. Punishment leads to anxiety which will only hinder the learning process and could cause issues in later life. Training should always be a positive and fun activity for both pet and owner.
Finding a healthy balance
There’s nothing wrong with using food or treats as a reward for your dog, however, as with all things diet-related they should be used in moderation. In an ideal world, healthy food and treats should always be used as a reward, but we know how fussy our pets can be at times. If your dog is only interested in less-healthy alternatives then portion control is vital, and smaller treats should be used. Similarly, if your dog receives lots of treats during a training session then consider reducing their portions at meal times.
Just like humans, portion control and exercise are vital for helping your dog to maintain a healthy weight. This should be kept in mind at all times, especially during training when your dog might be having more treats than usual. If you are unsure about how many calories your dog should be eating per day, you can use a dog calorie calculator.
Vet’s Kitchen is here to help
For more information about reward-based training and for a selection of healthy dog treats, visit https://www.vetknowhow.co.uk/. Our friendly team of vets, nurses, and nutritional advisors are here to help with all aspects of your pet’s life and diet.
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