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Positive Reinforcement Training Basics

Updated: Oct 9, 2021

You've probably heard of positive reinforcement training. Maybe reward-based or rewards based training, or Fear Free training, or force free training. There are a LOT of labels out there, but most of these terms come back to a few general principles of training. We fall into this umbrella of terms, and we'll explain why!


"Positive Reinforcement" is actually a scientific term. It means adding something good after a behavior, that makes the animal more likely to do that behavior again! If your dog sits and gets a treat, they're more likely to sit again. The same could be true for getting a tennis ball, a game of tug, access to the outside, or attention and petting. So positive reinforcement means getting good stuff that makes dogs (or any other animal) want to do that behavior again.


(When we say we're Positive Reinforcement trainers, we're saying we focus on using this strategy to work with dogs. There are also methods called negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. The positive and negative really mean adding/subtracting, not good or bad- so positive punishment might mean adding something scary (like a loud noise) when a dog does something, in hopes that they'll stop doing it. In general, we avoid these methods and stick to positive reinforcement. We'll talk more about why later!)


If you've heard of Fear Free, this is actually an awesome education and certification program that teaches ways to work with animals without causing unnecessary fear and stress. Miranda is a certified Fear Free trainer! You can learn more at https://fearfreepets.com/


If you've heard of force free, this is a more general term explaining the avoidance of force and coercion in training. The idea is that we're not going to push your dog's butt down to get them to sit, or jerk on their collar to stop leash pulling. We want to avoid making your dog fearful or uncomfortable during the learning process!


So why does this matter? A few things! One, there's evidence that dogs trained using reward based methods show fewer stress signals than dogs trained using more aversive or uncomfortable methods. Two, it's really effective! Three, we think it's the humane thing to do. Four, we often see dogs become fearful, anxious, or even aggressive after more painful or forceful training methods are used. This can be a big problem in the long term!

Want to learn more about positive reinforcement? Check out this article by Dogminded! Rewarding What You Want


You might have heard of clicker training, which is a type of positive reinforcement training. You can learn more on our blog here!


Want to learn more? Join a class or schedule a private session!

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