Features September 2008 Issue

Building a Healthy Relationship With Your Dog

Your relationship with your dog is made up of thousands thousands of tiny moments.

Like most positive dog trainers, I constantly remind my students that, whether they are conscious of it or not, they are training their dogs every moment they spend together. Whatever you choose to reinforce -- even when you’re not in a formal training session -- will affect your dog’s future behavior. The things that your dog does that you frequently reinforce are likely to increase, so it makes sense to reinforce him as frequently as you can for the behaviors that you enjoy. Here’s an interesting and powerful side-effect of frequent positive reinforcement: This practice can not only influence your dog’s behavior in a way that you like, but also improve your relationship in a sort of positive feedback loop. When a dog (or anyone!) is rewarded, it makes him feel good – about himself and the person giving the reward. And when your dog feels good about you, it tends to make him want to be with you more, and it motivates him try to earn even more reinforcements. Said simply, frequent positive reinforcements strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

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