Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the best way to do dog training "right". And since dog training is such an important part of any dog owners responsibilities, it is important that you become aware of this fact.

The whole idea behind using positive reinforcement in the first place is that it focuses on teaching the puppy exactly what you want the puppy to do - and rewarding the dog for good behaviors with treats, hugs, etc. Not yelling at the puppy about what you don’t want it to do - after it has already done it.

Sometimes puppies, and dogs too for that matter, do the wrong things - at least they're wrong as far as we're concerned. So you need to know how to respond appropriately when it happens and not scare the puppy by yelling at it, hitting it or reacting in some other kind of negative way.

If you've ever house trained a puppy I'll bet you've seen this: imagine that you just started fussing at the puppy for something that it just did that you do not necessarily approve of. What does the puppy do? Did it tuck its tail between his legs and hang its little head in shame?

Dogs are smart. He knows for sure that you are upset for some reason but has no idea what to do about it to make you feel better. Just imagine, if you're mad because of his “accident” over there on the carpet, the puppy is bound to be really confused by the whole chain of events.

To the puppy it's actually very simple, he had to urinate - you weren’t there to take him out when he had to "go" for whatever the reason was. So he peed on the floor. Not his fault.

1) He had "to go",
2) you didn't take him out in time,
3) so he went "pee pee" (or pooped). Case closed!

Remember, in this instance you have to be aware of just how long a little puppies bladder (or bowels) can hold before it needs to relieve itself. And take it out before it relieves itself - this is your responsibility.

And if the puppy makes a mistake because you didn't take it out in time - it's your fault as the owner. Plain and simple! That's just the way it is - you are the owner and it is your responsibility to provide appropriately for your dogs needs and to use positive reinforcement when it gives you the correct behavior you're looking for.

But anyway, let's say that the puppy (or dog) just couldn’t take it anymore and peed (or pooped) on the floor.

All right, now he has your attention - but in the wrong way. So let's keep on using this example: scolding a puppy (or even an adult dog for that matter) that is new to your home, and hasn't been house trained yet, when it has an "accident" like this, is useless. This is the opposite of positive reinforcement!

If you react negatively to the events as described above all you’ll be teaching your dog is that you have a short fuse and that your love is conditional. You didn’t take the time to show your dog what you want him to do, so he learned nothing good from the experience except that you are fairly ill tempered and hard to get along with (from his point of view anyway).

When you use the practice of positive reinforcement while training your dog, your dog or puppy will learn to make the association between what he just did and your praise, the treat he gets, etc. And since your dog really wants to please you, you can bet that he tries to do that behavior that just got him a belly rub or a doggie cookie over again for you.

And as you continue with each activity (remember, you want the dog to be consistent with the behaviors so you must be super consistent with the rewards too), the behavior will become more and more automatic so that, over time, house training will happen. And positive reinforcement will help it happen faster and make the behaviors better.

Please keep in mind, though, that accidents may happen - even when a dog is completely house trained.

Here are a few more tips for you:

If your dog seems to go to a certain place when it has to potty, then restrict all access to that room by closing the door or by putting up a baby gate.

Life happens - and sometimes changes in things like the dogs food, routine, or even visitors can disrupt your dogs schedule and cause your dog to become anxious or irritable. Which may lead to unusual potty mistakes - even in normally reliably housebroken dogs.

If you do happen to find "an accident", just clean it up. No need to "rub his nose in it" or scold him verbally. Dogs live in the minute. And as far as your dog is concerned, that "mistake" is old news and it will do nothing but confuse the dog to yell at him about something he didn't just do. You need to catch them in the act to make this work.

Don’t punish him for what he can’t prevent. Sometimes diarrhea just happens - which could mean that your dog has some sort of medical problem. Check the dogs food bowl. Has someone in the family fed the dog table scraps or junk food? Did your dog get into the trash or eat something outside that it shouldn't have eaten?

In the long run just remember that your dog depends on you to give him all the potty breaks he needs. Your dog will go when he needs to (sooner or later) - so make sure his potty break schedule happens to be at the same times that he actually "needs to go". Continue to use positive reinforcement throughout all your daily training and activities and you will soon find that your dog is more than your dog - but that he is also your family, friend and companion.

Return from Positive Reinforcement to German Shepherd Dog Training

" To a dog, motoring isn't just a way of getting from here to there, it's also a thrill and an adventure. The mere jingle of car keys is enough to send most any dog into a whimpering, tail-wagging frenzy." -- Jon Winokur

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