Training Tip: Understanding Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is giving a rewarding stimulus (attention, food, touch, play) immediately following a behavior.  Hopefully this is done deliberately while training your pet, though often positive reinforcement is accidental, contributing to persistent unwanted behaviors.  Providing attention to a cat who is meowing and weaving between our legs while we walk, even if we are speaking sternly, reinforces this behavior.  Similarly, pushing a puppy who jumps up on you inadvertently rewards jumping up.  Remember, even negative attention is attention!

Timing is crucial when delivering rewards for behavior.  For example, a treat and/or praise offered at the back door after a puppy has urinated in the backyard rewards returning to the back door, rather than reinforcing the desired behavior by providing rewards immediately after proper pottying.  

One of the most important things to reward in any pet is calm and quiet behavior.  Take the time to approach your pet and give affection when you find them resting by themselves.  Bring a treat when they are reclining in their bed.  The more we reward our pets during these restful times, the more we nurture and develop this behavior.  

This week, focus on rewarding your pet’s calm, relaxed behavior for five minutes each day.  At the end of the week, notice if there is a difference in your pet’s overall demeanor.  Let me know how it goes!