Say Hallelujah: Praise Your DogPublished May 15, 2012
One of the tenets of positive dog training is “focus on what your dog is doing right. ” I’m a believer of course, but in order to achieve maximum effectiveness with our dogs we need to take it one step further; “focus on what your dog is doing right and actively acknowledge it every chance you get. ” Praising the good stuff your dog does every day is a simple way to ensure better behavior in the future.
In my book, Bonding With Your Dog: A Trainer's Secrets for Building a Better Relationship, I dedicate a section to the importance of praise, and now that we’ve got obstreperous Olive in the house I'm really taking my own advice. O-Money (that’s her rap name) has tested me like no other dog. Her behavior has been … challenging … to the point where her other nickname is “My Little Mistake. ” Though life with Olive has been a struggle, the one shining constant in our lives together is how frequently and passionately she gets praised for making the right decisions.
She obviously gets praised for the big ticket stuff like pottying outside, but even minor behaviors like settling into a sit while I prep her dinner, or quickly preempting a barking fit, get acknowledged. To paraphrase Psychologist B.F. Skinner, the behavior that is rewarded gets repeated, so my warm praise of her manners makes it more likely that she’ll act the same way the next time the situation presents itself. (Of course, the reward should suit the behavior … I’m not suggesting that praise can replace food rewards in all training scenarios. Verbal praise is usually enough for the minor stuff that I’m describing.)
Our dogs opt to do the “right” thing hundreds of times during the average day, but too often we turn a blind eye. Why not take the opportunity to praise and not only strengthen your relationship with your dog, but also ensure that your dog will continue act politely? If you really focus on your dog you’ll soon realize what a rock star he is when he does stuff like:
- Sitting before you put on his leash
- Ignoring the barking dog next door
- Waiting to jump out of the car
- Trotting beside you during your daily walk
- Dropping the sneaker he just stole from the closet
It’s so easy to say, “Good boy, Rover.” Try it!