What is positive, reward-based training?

Posted 25 Jul 2021

What is reward-based training?

Also known as positive reinforcement, reward-based training involves teaching your pet to offer desirable behaviours by giving them something that they like. It’s a scientifically proven method of teaching which does not require any force, fear, pain or intimidation to get results.

Giving your dog a reward such as food or praise after they do something good means that they will be likely to repeat that good behaviour again and again. 

What are rewards?

Rewards can be anything that your dog likes such as toys or treats. Food is the easiest reinforcer as it’s easy to carry around. We recommend feeding at least part of your dog’s meal by hand as rewards to provide feedback to your dog about their behaviour. Whenever your dog does something you like simply say ‘yes’ and give them a piece of kibble. You’ll be surprised how quickly your dog will learn to offer the behaviours you like!

Do I always need to use rewards?

Once your dog starts to demonstrate good behaviour reliably you can start tapering the rewards and offering them only every now and again, rather than every time. It’s a good idea to bring out a treat at least every once in a while though, to keep your dog behaving in case they get a treat. Think of it like a pokie machine; you don’t win every time, but you keep playing just in case! 

A note about punishment

Where positive reinforcement refers to strengthening behaviours by giving your dog something that they like, positive punishment involves doing something to your dog that they don’t like. For example it’s quite common for owners to try and punish their dog for barking with collars such as electric shock collars.

Unfortunately studies show that animals struggle to understand what they’re being punished for. We often see dogs who associate the pain with the stimulus they were barking at such as a dog walking by the house, or even a child, rather than with the barking behaviour.

Punishment often results in other serious behaviour problems such as aggression, anxiety and fear. It can also sadly destroy your relationship with your pet.


Why our classes stand out from the rest

All RSPCA training curriculums are carefully developed to help strengthen the bond between pets and their guardians. Our trainers have extensive experience in building behaviours using trust and of course fun!

You can rest assured that when you enrol with RSPCA School for Dogs your dog will have the best time while learning, which means they’ll love to offer the behaviours you like, again and again!

Classes for all ages open now!

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