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Training with Praise and Rewards
By Sherry Woodard
Positive reinforcement is the most effective and humane way
to train animals. The basic principle is to reward a desired
behavior with something pleasant. As with so many things,
correct timing is essential. To get the animal to associate the
reward with the correct behavior, the treat or praise must be
delivered immediately. Consistency is also essential – always
reward the desired behavior and don’t ever reward undesired
The reward for good behavior can be a favorite toy, a game,
petting, praise, or food treats. Most dogs and cats will work
for food, so food is the most common training reward. Use
small pieces of soft treats that don’t require a lot of chewing,
so that you don’t lose the animal’s focus on the task at hand.
Offer praise and food rewards every time a dog is learning a new behavior. After the dog
responds consistently to a command, you can praise him without offering any treats.
Your dog will learn commands better if everyone in your household uses the same
commands. Some commonly used commands are sit, stay, down (used when you want
your dog to lay down), off (used when a dog has jumped up on someone), and come.
Keep training sessions short – you want training to be fun for both you and your pet.
Dogs are very sensitive to the tone of your voice, so if you’re in a bad mood, put off the
training session until you can enjoy the time spent with your dog.
Remember, to remain well-behaved, all dogs need regular exercise and social
interaction. To keep them socially acceptable, they need to socialize. After some basic
training, your dog will politely interact with most humans, whether they are guests in your
home or strangers in the park. If you want more information about humane methods of
training, here are a few resources:
• How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar (1996). A comprehensive
workbook for the motivated dog person, with sections on basic