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What is positive reinforcement for dogs? How does positive reinforcement work? How will my dog learn if I can’t tell him no or punish him when he is bad? What is negative reinforcement and is it used in dog training?

The questions asked above are all very good questions and to truly understand what positive reinforcement for dogs is, it helps to know the answers to these questions first.

We are going to answer the questions above and we will discuss the answers so by the end of this blog we will all have a much better understanding of what positive reinforcement for dogs is.

Before we get into what positive reinforcement training for dogs is let’s define some of the keywords we will be using so that we are all on the same page.


According to Marriam-Webster, the definition of reinforcement is:

  1. the action of strengthening or encouraging something: the state of being reinforced
  2.  something that strengthens or encourages something
  3. psychology the action of causing a subject to learn to give or to increase the frequency of a desired response that in classical conditioning involves the repeated presentation of an unconditioned stimulus (such as the sight of food) paired with a conditioned stimulus (such as the sound of a bell) and that in operant conditioning involves the use of a reward following a correct response or a punishment following an incorrect response
  4. also: the reward, punishment, or unconditioned stimulus used in reinforcement


Positive Reinforcement:

At Study.com the definition for positive reinforcement is:

Positive reinforcement is the addition of a reward following a desired behavior with the purpose of increasing the likelihood the behavior will occur again. When a positive outcome or reward occurs after an action, that particular response will be reinforced.

Negative Reinforcement:

According to VeryWellmind, the definition of Negative Reinforcement is:

Negative reinforcement is a term described by B. F. Skinner in his theory of operant conditioning
In negative reinforcement, a response or behavior is strengthened by stopping, removing, or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus.


The marker is used as soon as the desired behavior is reached, so at the moment my Fatty does what I’m asking I tell him good, which is my marker, a click from a clicker could be your marker too.  The marker is what you use to communicate to your pet he responding correctly.


The reward is given directly following the marker. The reward can be a treat, a toy, a walk, or even a car ride and should always be combined with your praise and affection.

What Is Positive Reinforcement For Dogs:

Now that we have a little more insight into the psychological meaning of positive and negative reinforcement it will be easier to figure out what positive reinforcement for dogs is.

Positive reinforcement for dogs has actually been around a while, although it was studied and discovered in the first half of the 1900s, it didn’t really catch on then, I was born in the late 70s and that’s how my dad taught us to train our dogs. Positive reinforcement for dogs started to surface more so in the 90s and today is the mainstream for dog training.

They also refer to positive reinforcement training as force-free, reward-based, or clicker training. They all focus on teaching your dog what you want him to do by rewarding him as soon as he does it.

Positive reinforcement for dogs is the act of training your pooch by rewarding him for good behavior. As soon as Fatty does exactly what I’m asking him to do I instantly tell him good, you can use any word a short word works best.

Many trainers also use a clicker, as soon as the desired behavior occurs you mark it for your dog by clicking the clicker or saying good or whichever short word you choose for your marker.

Immediately after marking the good behavior the positive reward is next.  A lot of trainers use different levels of treats for reward, the easier it is for the dog to perform the task you are asking the simpler the reward.

  • Home- less distraction, a kibble of his favorite dog food for the reward would be plenty with some doting affection.
  • In the yard- squirrels and neighbors possible distractions, a dry dog biscuit would suffice along with showing your love and praise.
  • Outside yard- cars, kids, and other dogs running around, calls for a favorite soft meaty treat and of course the one positive reward that should always be given love and affection.

As soon as your pooch is obeying the command you are teaching him consistently, you will want to start backing off with the treat part of the reward and praise your pooch, your pooch will start to obey without the treat.

Personally, when I am training my babies(dogs) I don’t reward with treats, I reward with praise, love, and affection. The only time I use treats for a reward is if my dog doesn’t seem to want to learn or just isn’t learning for whatever reason.

Keep in mind that each dog gets excited and motivated for different things so you can adjust accordingly. You are also going to want to keep your training sessions short around 15min so that your dog doesn’t get bored and lose interest.

It works best if you keep training sessions short and if you can turn it into a game-time to keep it fun.

How does he know what he shouldn’t do?

Pet parents are getting a bit carried away when they tell you to ignore the bad behavior. If or when your dog is misbehaving or doing something you don’t want him to be doing, you can and should stop him and correct the behavior.

Ignore your dog’s bad behavior!? SERIOUSLY!?

They are kind of like kids if you ignore the bad behavior they will likely continue the behavior possibly even get worse. The key is to keep positive reinforcement sessions separate from correction time.

Final Thoughts On Positive Reinforcement for Dogs:

When using Physical dominance for training more often than not is unnecessary abuse, which crushes your sweet puppy’s soul. Yes, I said it, it crushes his innocent soul.

That being said You have to stop them, tell them, no, and yes just like a child they will push and

push and push earning them a stern scolding with a time out and yes at one point or another they might even earn a swat on the but with a paper to get their attention which I promise you is not in any way abuse.

Using positive reinforcement for dog training can be a very effective training strategy if used correctly. Please remember to always be patient with your puppy and never discipline them out of anger.



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