The theme for this month’s Positive Pet Training blog hop is “Training Mantras – what is that one idea you always keep in mind when training?” I wasn’t sure how to answer this at first, if I even had a mantra. But I realized as I worked with Luke on some different things there is one thing I think about consistently when training, and that is “Praise, praise, praise.”
While treats are the most important tool in our training bag, praise is important to both me and Luke. When we’re working on something, praise comes easily to me anyway. It’s part of our enjoyment in training. When Luke does what I am looking for, not only do I click and say “yes”, I often go beyond that and say, “Good boy”, “Nice job”, “Good job, Buddy!”, and “You’re so smart!”.
If you research praise as a positive reinforcement training tool, you’ll find many sites that are all in favor of it, but most will also tell you that it is not the best tool. When using praise as a reward, you probably want to use it in conjunction with treats and perhaps physical contact like touching. I would never use simply praise when training something new, but when we’re practicing a learned behavior or trick, and treats are not handy, I will use praise as the reward, often along with a scratch under the chin or on his cheek or even a hug (Luke does not like to be patted on the head, and the truth is many dogs don’t).
This might not work for every dog. Cricket doesn’t do trick training but if we work on nose works or cues with her, I always need treats (a toy like her favorite ball might also work with her or other dogs that are highly toy motivated, I’ve just never tried it with her).
On the other hand, for dogs that are not highly treat motivated (not that I’ve ever had one of those!), praise, along with rewards such as a favorite toy or activity, can be an important tool. We also find it handy if I’m outside for just a few minutes and don’t have treats with me. When I’m tossing the ball for Cricket, that is a good time to work with Luke on some of his cues, since he is not as excited about fetch. We need to bring out the treats for more reinforcement, but Luke is one of those dogs that wants to please, so he is happy to work with me even when I forget the treats.
I started working with Luke last week on his new trick of “crawl”. He did much better than I expected first time out! At times like that, the praise rolls out so easily. However, we can’t forget that if things don’t go as well as we’d hoped, we need to end training on a high note with lots of praise and treats so we all come away feeling good. When that happens to us, we just revert to a trick Luke knows well to end our session.
That’s the thing to me about praise. Praising your dog doesn’t just make your dog feel good, it makes you feel good too! The trainer should enjoy training as much as the trainee, it’s positive reinforcement for both of us. Then we’re all looking forward to the next time.
What is one thing you always keep in mind when training your dog? Do you use praise as a tool?
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We are pleased to be co-hosting the Positive Pet Training blog hop with Tenacious Little Terrier and Travels with Barley. Pet bloggers, please join us in this hop by posting your positive pet training stories. The hop remains open through Sunday. Our theme this month is “Training Mantras”, however, you may share any positive pet training story, whether it’s on our theme or not!