What does positive dog training mean?

puppyPeople have misconceptions about what ‘positive’ dog training is. I hear very scary reasons why certain people won’t use positive training and the most common one is “I want to be the alpha.” You feed your dog. You take your dog out. Your dog waits for you to come back from work. Your dog depends on you for resources and play. How can you say that dog is ‘alpha or dominant’? Dominance is control of resources and nothing else. Another blog will be dedicated to this topic. Dog – human relationship is a a relationship just like between parents and children. And positive training doesn’t make you any less of a man or a woman. If anything, it helps creating a bond between you and your dog stronger, motivating your dog to learn, having a balanced and confident dog and most of all, creating a healthy and happy relationship between you and your dog.

positive-reinforcementI’d like to start with that positive dog training doesn’t mean cuddling, kissing and hugging your dog constantly (nothing wrong with hugging or cuddling your dog). Also, dogs like us humans, love their personal space.

positive dog training

Positive dog training (positive reinforcement) is evidence based and it means teaching dogs through reward – based methods (I.e., treats, food, toys, verbal praise).

positive training

Positive reinforcement involves the addition of a reinforcing stimulus (i.e., something that your dog will want to work for such as a treat) immediately following a behavior and the learner will want to want to engage in that behavior more often. When your dog sees that learning is fun, he or she will want to engage in positive behaviours more often.


A reinforcer is something the learner will work to earn or something the learner finds pleasurable.

First you need to find dog’s motivation by getting your dog to try different treats, different toys, kibble, praise, building your pup’s play drive and so on.

Effective reinforcers:

  • are provided immediately after the target behaviour has occurred
  • are provided frequently
  • are paired with a clear verbal description of the behaviour
  • are delivered with enthusiasm
  • are delivered continuously (continuous reinforcement schedule CRF) at first, and then more intermittently later on
  • can occur on a fixed schedule; e.g., every time a behaviour is observed, or on a variable schedule; e.g., every third time a behaviour is observed
  • fade out over time (after your doggie has demonstrated the skills in different environments)

You might ask WHY does my dog need to be reinforced? I answer this with “Why do you need to get paid for the job you have done”? We all need MOTIVATION (you go to your job because you know you will get paid. Getting paid is your reinforcement). Dogs ned reinforcement to learn skills. Reinforcement is used to teach humans and animals. It’s science!


Why use positive reinforcement?

  • You want to encourage and reward wanted behaviours
  • Reinforcement is the reason why we continue to do many things. Dogs will do the same
  • You want your dog not to be scared of you
  • You want your dog to see you as a leader and not an unstable person
  • Your dog will be more confident and well balanced
  • You will have a happier relationship with your dog

Why not use reinforcement? There are no valid reasons why you wouldn’t want to use reinforcement. Reinforcement is evidence based and very well researched that it increases skills. Think about your own experience with positive reinforcement.


Thanks for reading everyone.


Cooper, J., & Heron, T. (2010). Applied behavior analysis. Columbus: Pearson Education.

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