Getting a dog can be one of the best decisions you ever make. Dogs are incredible because they are faithful companions that will stick with you through thick and thin. The connection you’ll make with your furry friend is beyond compare, and just being around them can improve your mental health and give you purpose. You can strengthen the bond with your pet by training them with positive reinforcement. This method of training your dog with rewards for a job well done has been proven to be incredibly effective, and it can make your relationship so much stronger. Here are a few reasons why it’s worth a chance, how to do it right, and other ways to maintain a strong bond with your dog.
How Positive Reinforcement Creates A Stronger Bond
When you first get your dog, they’ll likely have a lot to learn, and you have a choice from day one to focus on what your pup does wrong or right. Positive reinforcement training is just as it sounds. It rewards your dog with praise, toys, treats, and other positive stimuli when they correctly perform a command. So, when you ask your dog to lie down, and they obey, you’ll provide a treat. Your dog will begin to instinctively understand that you want the best for them and that you’re there to support them.
Your dog won’t always perform correctly immediately, and they may even misbehave. However, what you do at that point will either hamper or help your relationship. When the dog misbehaves, instead of raising your voice or lashing out, first identify the cause of their behavior. Common reasons for misbehavior might include:
- Medical issues like a bladder infection (which can cause issues with housetraining)
- Hormones (especially if your dog hasn’t been spayed or neutered)
- Looking for attention
- Separation anxiety
Do your best to ignore negative behaviors. Or, if you’re not sure why the dog is agitated, ask a vet. Dogs may lash out for many reasons, but when they’re provided with a strong environment, and there’s constant positive encouragement, they're more likely to be the best they can be.
It’s worth noting that positive reinforcement training can be as good for you as it is for the dog because of the health benefits that pet ownership provides. Having a dog is excellent for your mental health because being an owner raises the oxytocin in your body, which is the same hormone you feel when bonding with a child.
When you’re showing your dog positive reinforcement, and they’re showing love back, that bond only gets deeper. Plus, when you’re outside training your dog, you’re also getting exercise, which helps you to stay in shape, and that's always a good thing.
Tips For Better Reinforcement Training
There are various tips and methods that you can try to make positive reinforcement training work for you and your dog. There are several dos and don’ts that you want to remember. You do want to praise your pup immediately when they do something right. As soon as they perform, provide the treat because if you wait too long, they may not remember why they’re being rewarded, and you're back to the start.
While most pet owners start their positive reinforcement training by offering treats, eventually, you can wean the dog off of those and substitute them with something else. Providing too many treats can lead to unhealthy weight gain for your pup, and it can be costly to buy treats every week. Instead, look into dog training tools like a clicker. Whenever you treat your dog, you can also make a clicking sound. Eventually, your dog will associate the clicking with a treat so you can eliminate the food, and they’ll continue their positive behaviors.
You don’t want to make the commands too complicated, or your dog could get confused. Keep commands simple to one word when possible so your pet knows exactly what’s expected of them. Also, ensure that the commands are consistent among everyone in the family so your dog doesn’t get confused. When your dog constantly follows commands, you’ll be proud of them, and your love will grow even stronger. Your dog will want to impress you, and your bond will continue to evolve.
Building A Stronger Bond With Your Dog
When your dog is well-behaved and you’ve taught them the necessary safety precautions, you can bring them out of the house and on new adventures that will only continue to strengthen your bond. Start by taking your furry friend on walks or runs throughout the neighborhood, then graduate on a trip to the beach where the dog can experience a little more freedom.
For the actual test, take your pet camping. Your pup will likely go wild investigating the plants and animals they don’t see in the backyard. You can also continue the training outdoors by teaching them more advanced skills, like off-leash training, where you can test if they’ll stop and sit on command.
Even with a trained dog, you must be safe while camping. Before you leave, get your dog up to date on their vaccinations in case a predator or bug bites them during your adventure. Also, ensure that their ID tags are up to date in the off-chance that they get away from you during the trip. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water and a bowl so your dog doesn’t get dehydrated.
Remember that you don’t need to go on a grand adventure to connect with your pet. Sometimes, hanging out together on the couch or spending cuddle time with them on the floor is necessary to build up trust with your dog and create an everlasting connection. Positive reinforcement training is one of the best ways to teach your dog the proper behaviors while keeping the love in your relationship and creating a stronger bond. Do it right, and you'll make a connection that will last forever.