People and dogs both learn best when they are given praise and love for a job well done. Praising your dog while training is a very effective way to motivate him to learn and obey your commands. Decide on one or two words for each command, and use that same word every time you give the command.
Know When To Use Praise
Dogs don't understand cause and effect unless one comes immediately after the other. When you praise your dog, he thinks he's being praised for whatever he just did. So it's important to say "good dog" or give a small treat the moment he does the desired action. It works the same way for reinforcing a command your dog has already learned. If your dog reliably lies down every time you say "down," you should still praise him every time he does it, but praise him the moment he does it. If you wait another moment, he might stand up, and then he'll think that's what you're praising him for.
Do Not Praise Inappropriate Behavior
This may seem obvious, but many dog owners reward inappropriate behavior by inadvertently giving their dog positive reinforcement. For example, if your dog greets you at the door barking, and you respond by hugging him and speaking to him in either an enthusiastic or a consoling tone, your dog will think you are pleased with the behavior and he'll keep doing it. The best way to handle unwanted behavior is to ignore it. The moment your dog stops barking, or whatever he's doing that he shouldn't be doing, praise him lavishly.
Kathy Kattenburg has been a writer for more than 30 years. Her articles have been published in "N.J. Jewish News" and "Suburban Essex," and she is a contributing writer and full partner at Not the Singularity. Kattenburg has a BA in English literature from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.