Training is not an easy undertaking for any pet parent. And, training never really stops. You should be constantly and consistently reinforcing learned behavior. After all, just like the good habits that any of us develop, these can just as easily be broken. While training, humans should commit to acknowledging good behavior through positive reinforcement. By focusing on your pet’s good behavior and efforts, you are building a stronger relationship and teaching them that in order to get the attention that they want, they need to behave in a certain manner. While the following information is referring to dogs, these tricks and techniques can be useful for training all types of animals!
Let’s start with the timing of rewards. This is key. Rewards must occur immediately - this means, as your dog is physically engaged in the behavior. For example, when teaching your pup to “sit,” the reward should occur while his fluffy bum is on the floor. Unfortunately, once he stands up and is no longer performing that behavior, providing a reward will only confuse the dog.
As the trainer, you should aim to provide a reward that appropriately matches the level of effort from the dog. Treats should be given more rarely and as a high form of praise, while petting and verbal praise should be administered more often. Trust me, your pet will appreciate and respond to either, but needs to understand that you are not merely a treat dispensing machine. When teaching your pet a new behavior, treats should generally be used more often, especially when your super smart pup nails it. However, rewards should continue even as following that command seems to become routine for your dog. Once a trick is learned, start lessening the amount of treats you give and increase other forms of praise, like petting or playtime outside. Eventually, the use of treats can be completely transferred over to teaching your pet how to do something else incredible.
There you have it - a crash course on rewarding your super-deserving dog. Don’t get discouraged when it comes to training. Yes, it takes time and a ton of effort (for both you and your pet!), but the reward of having your dog loyally obeying your command time and time again is worth it. There are plenty of great resources out there for you (especially if you live in Boston!), and your pup is smart and eager enough to learn everything there is to know.