Dogs don’t care about money. They care about praise … and food. Positive reinforcement training uses praise and/or treats to reward your dog for doing something you want him to do.

Because the reward makes him more likely to repeat the behavior, positive reinforcement is one of your most powerful tools for shaping or changing your dog’s behavior.

Rewarding your dog for good behavior sounds pretty simple, and it is! But to practice the technique effectively, you need to follow some basic guidelines.

  1. Timing is everything
  2. Keep it short
  3. Consistency is key
  4. When to use positive reinforcement
  5. The bad: Be careful that you don’t inadvertently use positive reinforcement to reward unwanted behaviors. For example, if you let your dog outside every time he barks at a noise in the neighborhood, you’re giving him a reward (access to the yard) for behavior you want to discourage.
  6. Shaping behavior
  7. Types of rewards
  8. When to give treats

Check Out: These 5 Tips to Build Your Dog’s Attention Span

Sources: The Human Society of the United States


We all know that some basic obedience training makes dogs more fun to be around. What many of us don’t know is that it has other, less obvious, benefits.

Obedience training helps your dog see you as her leader, and it also gives her a mental workout–something that many canines need just as much as physical exercise to stave off boredom and make them feel useful. And some commands, like a good recall, may even save your dog’s life one day.

In dog training, timing is everything
Timing is very important. You must mark your dog’s behavior the instant she complies with the command. Saying a single word such as “Yes!” or using a clicker is a good way to mark a correct behavior. It lets your dog know immediately that she’s been successful.

Start simple and gradually make it harder
You want to go step-by-step and give your dog lots of practice getting it right. Start with an easy command in a familiar place with no distractions. Once your dog is responding consistently, add what trainers call the three D’s: distance, duration, and distractions. Stand one step away from your dog, then two steps away; ask for a one-second stay, then a two-second stay; add a bouncing ball, some treats scattered on the ground, or another dog or person to the mix.

Wait until your dog has mastered the current challenge before you add a new one. If she flubs it, just take away one of the challenges and try again, going more slowly this time.

Rewards work better than bribes
Rewarding your dog’s good behavior with a treat is an excellent training tool, but if rewards are overused, they can become bribes.

To avoid the treat becoming a bribe, stop luring your dog with the treat as soon as he begins to catch on to what you’re asking him to do. Ask him to “sit,” wait two or three seconds for him to comply, then give him the treat if he sits. Your goal is to teach him to follow a verbal command alone; this will help during those moments when you may not have a treat handy but need him to be on his best behavior.


  • Be consistent.
  • Start simple and gradually make it harder.
  • Don’t repeat the command.
  • Use food treats as lures and rewards.
  • Time it right.
  • Make rewards sporadic, then phase them out.
  • Keep it short and sweet.
  • Mix up people and places.
  • Keep your cool.
  • Once your dog knows a few commands, practice “Nothing in life is free.”
  • Keep practicing.

Sources: DogTimeThe Human Society


1. Rubbing Their Nose In It.

Rewarding your dog for going potty outside is an integral first step to house training. A key part of house training your dog, however, is preventing indoor accidents from happening in the first place.

Yelling at your dog, rubbing their nose in their mess, or giving them a spanking doesn’t teach your dog to potty outside–it teaches him to be fearful of you and to have those accidents out of sight. (And come on, you paid good money for those bath rugs.)

2. Growl About It.

Growling is one of the few ways a dog can communicate that they feel threatened or scared. You should never punish a dog for growling. If your dog is growling at something or someone, immediately remove your dog from the situation and DO NOT punish them.

3. Playing Fast And Loose With Leash Rules.

Pulling on the leash is inherently rewarding for dogs. Why? Because it gets them where they are going. Don’t allow your dog to strain the leash and drag you from place to place. If your dog is pulling, make like a tree and stand still. Once the leash relaxes and your dog is looking at you, continue your walk.

4. Permission To Counter Surf.

If your dog finds food on the counter, it won’t be long before he comes back looking for more. Prevention is key here. Reward your dog for staying out of the kitchen when you are home, and keep the kitchen closed off when you aren’t around to monitor your pup. Keep food out of paws reach by storing it in the pantry or in the fridge. If you have kids, remind them not to leave their half-eaten snack or dirty dishes on the counter.

5. Play Is Important.

Dogs need an outlet for their energy. If you aren’t providing one, your dog will provide one for himself and, odds are, you won’t like whatever they choose. Make sure you are giving your dog plenty of exercise. A large majority of dog-related problems can be attributed to your dog not getting enough stimulation or exercise. If your dog is running around the house and has a bad case of the zoomies, it’s time to take them out to play.

6. Chew On This.

Dogs don’t just have a desire to chew, they have a need to chew! Providing your dog with plenty of chew toys is the first step, but unfortunately not the last. Dogs need constant reminding of what is okay to chew and what isn’t. Keep anything you don’t want your dog to chew off the floor! If you do catch your dog chewing on something off-limits, redirect him with a few cues (sit, down, touch), and then replace the item with one of their chew toys.

7. Nipping Enabler.

Mouthy puppies can be sweet and funny when they are little, but nipping can become dangerous fast. Don’t allow your dog to make teeth-to-skin contact with anyone, ever. When dogs first learn how to play, their littermates and mother teach them what an acceptable mouthing pressure is, and what kind of wrestling is tolerated among other dogs.

Sources: ASPCA, Humane Society Of The United States


1. Jump Around

Do not allow your dog to jump on guests, period.

Even if you have a friend that insists “Oh it’s okay! I’m a dog person!” don’t allow your dog to jump up and greet them. Your pup doesn’t know the difference between a twenty-year-old who is a “dog person” and seventy-five-year-old Grandpa who just had a hip replacement.

If you have a dog that jumps, warn your guest before they come over. Ask your guests to turn away from your dog and ignore them until your pup is sitting quietly. Teach your dog that they get lovin’ when all four paws are on the floor, and not before.

2. Back Talk.

Petting, talking to, playing with, and even scolding a barking dog, reinforces the dog to bark. Do not give a dog attention while they’re barking. The best remedy to a Barking Betsy is the good ole’ cold shoulder. And don’t forget to praise the peace and reward Betsy when she is being quiet!

Remember, barking can be inherently rewarding for some dogs, especially for many smaller breeds. Make sure the reward you give your dog is more rewarding then the barking itself. You may have to test out several treats and toys to find out what your pup goes absolutely bananas for.

3. Submissive Peeing.

If you have ever been greeted at the door by a dog that stops and pops a squat, you have been greeted by a dog that submissively pees. Submissive peeing is one way little Buttercup can say “I’M BUTTERCUP AND I AM NOT A THREAT!”

If your dog submissively urinates, there are a few things you may be doing that unintentionally make the matter worse. Petting, talking to, or even looking at a dog that feels the need to submit can drive the pup to submissively urinate. If you think your dog is about to submit, look away and ignore him. Give Buttercup a couple seconds to calm down and allow some of the excitement to pass. Never scold your dog for submissively urinating, as that can make the matter much worse.

4. Giving In To Their Begging.

Those big eyes peering at you from under the table can be pretty hard to ignore. It can be especially hard when you find a warm, fuzzy face in your lap. Do yourself, and your guest, a favor and never feed your dog from the table. You are wrong if you think your pet won’t remember you giving them that piece of steak fat during last night’s dinner. It only takes one time!

Not feeding your pet from the table doesn’t mean your pup can’t enjoy some healthy human scraps every now and then–it simply means that your pup doesn’t get to enjoy them at the table or while you are eating. Reward your dog for staying away from the table during mealtime and consider teaching your dog “Place.” Ask your dog to go to their bed, or “place,” and provide them with a treat-filled toy or their own dinner once they’re lying down. Teach your pup that it is more rewarding to be away from the table during mealtime, rather than under it.

5. Potty Time Is NOT Play Time.

It’s not the time Fido gets to sniff all sixteen rocks Buster from next door peed on yesterday, or their personal time to roll in the grass by Coco’s house. Potty time is potty time. Your dog only needs the length of the leash to do their business. Teach your dog that social hour starts after business gets done.

This is especially true for those night time potty-breaks. It might be cute the first time, but eventually you won’t want to take Fido out at 3 A.M. to look at the stars. Take your dog to do their business and put your pup right back to bed. You will thank yourself later.

Sources: ASPCA, Humane Society Of The United States


There are several things we as puppy parents unintentionally do that mess with our dogs’ emotions.

No matter how hard we try in our effort to be perfect, some of our human ways can lead to one confused pup. And sending mixed signals to our pups will make them more likely to misbehave. But is it really bad behavior, or bad communication?

1. Bribery.

Does your dog only listen if you have a treat in your hand? Do you keep your hand in the treat pouch during a training session or move towards the cookie jar before you issue your dog a command? If you answered “yes,” you are one of many hoomans guilty of bribing your dog. Many people begin training a behavior by luring their dog into position. Using a lure is okay in the initial stages of training a command, however, there is a fine line between a lure and a bribe, so it’s important to phase out the lure as soon as possible.

Think of positive reinforcement like a slot machine. If you play the slots and win the jackpot on your first, second, and third try, you just learned that the slots can be very rewarding. Odds are, you’re gonna keep playing even if you don’t win much on the fourth or fifth try.

You keep playing because you won in the past, and you want to win again in the future. The casino doesn’t have to guarantee a win for you to keep playing the game. Rate of reinforcement with dogs is similar. Teaching your dog to work without a bribe is important because a treat might not always be available.

2. “Come Here Now!”

How many of you have called to your dog and a wild west standoff ensues? Well, what exactly are you calling them for? We often expect our pups to come even when they know there’s no incentive to do so. Instead, ensure that “come” works every time by rewarding your dog with a puppy party every time they obey this all-important command.

The key-word here is reward. Puppy parties should involve anything your dog finds rewarding–a nice belly rub, a yummy treat, their favorite toy, etc. The key-word here is reward. Unless your dog absolutely, 100 % lives to take a bath, a puppy party should not involve bath-time. They most certainly won’t want to come when called if they’re punished once they get to you.

Never punish your dog for coming when called. Even if your dog is coming back after an hour long escapade through the neighborhood, they still get a puppy party. Remember to always issue a recall command with a pleasant tone and a smile on your face; no dog wants to come running to an angry tone and a scowling face.

3. “Go To Your Room!”.

So, your dog is less than eager to spend time in their kennel… well, how many times have you used the kennel as a form of punishment? The kennel should be a comfortable place that your dog is eager to visit. The kennel is that magical place where your pup eats their dinner or gets a peanut butter-stuffed Kong. Never use the kennel as a form of punishment!

Sources: ASPCA, Humane Society Of The United States



Living with a pet can be beneficial to children. Pets can enhance a child’s self-esteem, teach them responsibility and help them to learn empathy. However, children and dogs are not always going to automatically start off with a wonderful relationship.

Parents must be willing to teach the dog and the child acceptable limits of behavior in order to make their interactions pleasant and safe.

Socialization Should Be Relaxed and Fun
Remember, “socialization” doesn’t mean you throw your puppy into the deep end of the pool and hope she knows how to swim. The key to success is to keep exposures pleasant and relaxed.

What If Your Dog Already Likes Kids?
So you’ve got a dog who loves kids, whether your dog is a puppy you socialized yourself, or you’ve adopted a kid-friendly adult.

Teach Kids How to Give Dog Treats Safely
You might also carry treats for children to give your dog. Not only do kids love to give treats, but your dog is frequently reminded that kids are good news. Supervise carefully, of course, just as a parent would do. Show kids how to offer treats in the palm of their hand instead of between their fingers. Nervous children shouldn’t be pushed any more than nervous dogs.

Teach Kids How to Properly Pet Your Dog
If several children have surrounded your dog, gently insist that they take turns in petting and treating, and excuse yourself while your dog is still relaxed and having a good time. If a child handles your dog roughly or has the bright idea of barking in his ear, bail out. The privilege of meeting friendly dogs comes with the responsibility of being nice to them!

Old Dogs and Kids
Finally, there may come a day when even the most kid-loving dog needs to retire from the petting zoo. If your dog’s sight and hearing have diminished, she may be more easily startled and scared than in her youth. Or a dog who used to bounce and wiggle if a kid ricocheted off him may respond differently when his old hips ache and creak. Be your aging dog’s advocate and limit the hellos to children with quiet demeanors

Supervise to Prevent Problems
The best way to avoid potentially dangerous situations is to supervise all interactions between your dog and your kids—even if your dog is friendly and gentle. Remember, it takes only a few seconds for things to go awry. Monitor both your children’s and your dog’s behavior when they’re together and watch for signs of trouble. If you supervise diligently, you can step in when necessary and prevent bad experiences.

Sources: Oregon Human Society, Quick and Dirty Tips, ASPCA