5 Positive Reinforcement Pet Training Tips
Training your pets is an attribute of pet health and happiness. Positive pet discipline also provides structure and safety for your furry friend, and is a wonderful way to bond with your dog or cat. You can begin training your puppy as early as 8 weeks of age, but any pet can learn something new and benefit from training through positive reinforcement–whether they’re old or young.
At Bayside Animal Hospital, we advocate positive pet training as the healthiest, best way to shape a pet’s behavior. We hope these positive pet training tips will help you in your journey, whether you’re a new puppy parent or looking to teach your long-time companion better behavior.
Show Pets What You Want Them to Do
Some Kemah pet owners find positive training too passive initially, because it seems that their pet will misbehave, regardless. This thought process can lead to endless frustration. If you’re torn between scolding a pet or waiting for them to stop misbehaving on their own, positive reinforcement is the way to go. It can be used alongside corrections, and quickly point pets in the right direction. For example, if a pet is heading toward your favorite shoes to pick them up, give them their own toys repeatedly and praise them when they accept a toy, and avoid your shoes.
Using positivity–such as scratches and cuddles when they follow your instructions–will teach them what you want them to do and simultaneously reduce naughty habits such as chewing and barking. Be extremely patient, and create the time & opportunity for your pet to behave in the correct manner.
Keep Pet Commands Short
When training a pet using a new command, only use a single word and not a phrase or sentence for the task. Pets can get confused if you use the command in a sentence, or if they’re doing something else and haven’t fully learned what you want them to do. For example, if your dog tends to wiggle around as soon as you guide her bottom to the floor, don’t try to issue a “sit” command when she’s still moving, or say a phrase like “no, no, sit down!” This will confuse your pet and she may begin to associate the word with jumping around. Until a pet has the action or command down pat, only use the word when they perform the action.
Using tiny treats, petting, and cuddles can help pets easily learn what to do and is an easy form of positive pet reinforcement.
Involve the Whole Family in Pet Training
Ensure that everyone in the household is on the same page when it comes to pet training. Everyone should be using the same commands and following the same procedure to reward good behavior. Make sure everyone knows where the pet treats are, and how to go about correcting unwanted behaviors. Avoid negativity, yelling, and mixed signals at all costs. Also, never reward an undesirable action or use treats as a bribe.
Mix Up Your Pet’s Positive Rewards
Dogs can get bored with the same treats. When they do, add some variety to your selection. We suggest small, pea-sized amounts of snacks they enjoy eating. Ask our team at Bayside Animal Hospital or your Texas veterinarian to recommend their favorite brands of dog treats. Don’t get discouraged if your pet doesn’t like certain treats–you can always trade with other pet parents if your pet is a little picky. Pets are true characters, so it’s important to understand that your pet may have days where they’re simply not interested in treats, in which case, try rewarding them with a toy or cuddles instead.
Gradually Decrease Your Pet Rewards
Variable reinforcement is one of the lesser known positive pet training tips. It’s a good idea to start by rewarding your pet about four out of every five times your pet completes a successful action. Once they’ve learned the action, decrease treats by one. Do this over time until your dog follows your commands without getting anything in return. Praise should always be a part of the mix, but you won’t have to be as enthusiastic or offer food after your dog learns a command using this method.
Switching up when you provide a treat for a behavior is also important; for example, when using the four out of five approach, maybe you’ll treat on the second instead of the third but reverse that the next time you train. The goal is to vary your reinforcements and ensure your dog doesn’t catch on and only listen when they know a treat is involved.
Contact Bayside for More Positive Pet Training Advice
We’re always available to help local Kemah pets and their owners lead their best lives together. Our friendly staff is happy to answer any questions you have about positive reinforcement pet training and guide you to some useful resources. Give us a call or contact us online today!
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