At RSPCA School for Dogs, our focus is on positive reinforcement, often called reward based training. This means we reward behaviours that we want to see our dogs do more often! If your dog is currently performing behaviours you don't like, such as jumping on visitors, chewing your shoes, or going through the rubbish, we use a combination of force-free techniques to teach your dog what they should be doing instead!
How we train aligns with our scientific understanding of how animals learn:
- Dogs naturally want to do behaviours that are enjoyable for them, such as eating, digging, barking and playing. We can teach our dogs to choose behaviours that fit in with a human family, like lying calmly on their bed, walking politely on lead, and coming to us when called, by making these even more rewarding for them.
- Every behaviour has an immediate consequence. Teach your dog that desirable behaviours have rewarding consequences (food, pats, play or praise), while undesirable behaviours do not get your dog the fun they're after. It's more fun to pay attention to the human than anything else!
- If a behaviour, such as jumping up, is ignored, and no reward is given, the dog will be less likely to practice that behaviour in future. Your dog will learn that the way to get pats, praise and attention is by sitting down!
Training Tips from our Group Classes
- Training should be fun for you and your dog!
- If you find that you are becoming upset, end the session and try again later.
- Teach your dog desirable behaviours.
- Like children, dogs aren’t born with manners; they are opportunists who will take advantage of every situation unless they are trained otherwise! Help them learn what the rules are and reward them for making good choices.
- Set your dog up for success.
- Give your dog every chance to succeed, don’t expect him to understand simply because you have shown him a few times. Teach him in lots of different situations and in different environments - this includes familiar settings (e.g. inside your house, and your backyard), then build up to unfamiliar settings (e.g. on a walk, at your local dog park, or the beach). Dogs are not "naughty" out of spite, but they do get confused if they haven't done enough practice.
- Practice – each time you interact with your dog you teach them something, so try to make sure each interaction is positive!
- Finish each session while your dog wants more.
- Dogs, like kids, have short attention spans. Short, frequent training sessions will be more successful!
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