Dog being handed a treat

Why use Positive Reinforcement to Train Your Dog?

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What is Positive Reinforcement:

Positive reinforcement occurs when a desirable event or stimulus is presented as a consequence of a behaviour and therefore that behaviour is repeated. For example, in dog training, if a dog pees in his designated area outside the owner says “yes” and rewards the dog with a treat. The dog repeats this behaviour because he knows that when he pees in his designated area something good happens, he gets a treat.

Why is Positive Reinforcement a Preferred Method to Train Dogs:

Dalmation sitting for a treat

Positive reinforcement is a humane way of training dogs. A dog is rewarded for behaviours that he does correctly and not rewarded for mistakes.

Mistakes are not punished in positive reinforcement training, they are simply just not reinforced. If mistakes are not rewarded your dog will make less mistakes because he will be more likely to repeat the wanted rewarded behaviours instead.




Benefits to Positive Reinforcement Training Including:

Dogs will want to offer the wanted behaviour because they are rewarded for it.Dog running in a field with a green ball in his mouth

  • Dogs are food, play or attention driven. If a dog can get more of these awesome rewards then why wouldn’t he want to show you a behaviour that will in turn give him that?


Dogs are given the chance to think about the behaviours that are wanted and to perform them with the hopes they will be rewarded with a treat.

  • Positive reinforcement training is a mentally stimulating exercise for the dog. Your dog has to think about the behaviour that he was performing when he got a reward in order to know which behaviour he should repeat to get more rewards. You do not pressure your dog to perform a behaviour rather he is given time to think about and perform it when he is ready to offer it.

Your dog is always given a choice whether to perform a behaviour.

  • In positive reinforcement a dog is not punished for not performing the behaviour. Like humans dogs should have the right of choice. They should be able to choose if they want to perform a behaviour and not be given an aversive stimuli, like a shock, if they chose not to perform it. The more humane way to teach a dog to offer a behaviour is to reward him when he does the wanted behaviour so he will want to choose to perform it.

No pain is afflicted on the dog to elicit the behaviour.

  • No aversive stimulus is applied to elicit a behaviour eg. choke chains, shock, or leash yank which may lead to stress, fear and aggression.

Communication with your dog will improve.

  • You learn to be effective in communicating what you want your dog to do.
  • Your dog will learn from you what you want him to do and he will want to do these behaviours for you.
  • You will learn to read your dog’s body language to sense he is understanding or if he is getting stressed and needs a break from training for the day.
  • It is important for both you and your dog to understand each other and when you do you both will learn a lot from each other and be able to communicate more easily with one another.

You will develop a strong bond with your dog.

Man, woman and dog hands on top of each other

  • You will be spending a lot of time with your dog and positively rewarding him with treats.
  • He will enjoy the time he spends with you and develop more trust and respect for you.
  • If you weren’t already, you will now definitely be your dog’s favourite human!


Many different behaviour issues can be treated using positive reinforcement.

  • Unlike punishment, that may actually make reactivity and aggression worse, positive reinforcement is a great way to train these behaviours.

It can be used to train any dog.

  • Young puppies, adult dogs, and even senior dogs can all learn new behaviours or be reinforced to offer previously learned behaviours by way of positive reinforcement training.
  • It can be used to train humans and other animals as well.

The whole family can be involved in the training.

Woman, two boys and a golden retriever squatting down together in a circle

  • It is easy to teach all members of the family how to do positive reinforcement training. Children can also be involved by providing treats when your dog performs a wanted behaviour.
  • One member of the family should begin by teaching the dog a new behaviour initially and then the rest of the members can be shown the cues and continue to reinforce these behaviours as well.

Positive reinforcement training is fun!

  • Training your dog should be a fun experience. If it isn’t then you aren’t doing it right!
  • Your dog should be excited to learn and enjoy being rewarded for offering good behaviours.
  • You should have fun spending time with your dog and teaching your dog new behaviours.

When you or your dog is bored, stressed and no longer having fun the training session ends.

  • When you are training using positive reinforcement with your dog you want your dog to be having fun and not stressed or bored. You also want to be in a good mood yourself when you start training your dog. If this isn’t the case then don’t train.
  • During a training session if you or your dog become stressed or lose focus end the session on a positive note with a behaviour that your dog already knows and loves to perform. Treat him for it and end the session. Take the rest of the day off and start fresh when you both are ready to have some fun and train!

As you can see there are many great benefits to training using positive reinforcement. Although there are many methods of training dogs, Good Heels Dog Walking Services only uses positive reinforcement when working with client’s dogs. I highly recommend that you use positive reinforcement to train your dogs as well and choose trainers and other dog care providers who share the same views to work with your dog.



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