One of the most over looked aspects of pit bull training is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement can take many forms and we will learn about a couple here today.
What is positive reinforcement and what is negative reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement means we are reinforcing something with a positive feeling. In other words, your puppy sits, you reward him. That’s positive reinforcement.
Negative reinforcement means you are enforcing something with a negative action. For example, your puppy knows how to sit but chooses not to. You do not reward him. You took the reward away and he didn’t get it. That’s negative reinforcement.
Both of these are more complicated than this, but for this article we’ll keep it simple for times sake.
And then we have one of the most powerful training concepts called, avoidence.
Avoidence is your friend
Avoidence means your dog wants to avoid something because it stimulates a negative response or feeling.
For example, we stop at red lights to avoid getting a ticket or possibly killed by other drivers.
What’s interesting here is, we were not corrected for running a red light. We were taught to see a signal (the red light) and that signal meant to stop because if we don’t we won’t be able to avoid the negative results of our actions.
You want to show them there is a negative to not listening.
How do you do this using no corrections? You withhold their reward.
For example, I tell my dog Angel to “go to bed” and she goes and lays down on her mat. I walk over and reward her. However, she decides she wants to get off the mat and does.
This is where a lot of people make a mistake with positive training. In compulsion this is where I would grab her leash and correct her all the way back to the mat and give the command again.
However, in positive training there are not any corrections, so how do we show Angel she goofed?
We take her by her leash and walk her back to the mat and give the command again.
Now we sit next to her for a moment and after about 30-60 seconds we praise and reward her and then we let her go.
Why not correct her to the mat and show her there is a negative consequence for not listening?
The negative consequence here is she has to go back the mat without a reward. Once she lays on her bed for 30-60 seconds, then we reward her.
We might add corrections later when we introduce a distraction so high that no amount of food or praise will cut it.
However, at this point in time she doesn’t really know what you want her to do. However, we will NEVER correct her for not doing something because if you do this right, you will never have to.
Why most people suck at training their pit bull
They lack consistency, discipline and timing.
Without mastery of these three concepts you will have a hard time training your dog. Timing is by far the most important of the three though.
Most people either fail to master one or all three of these important concepts. Even I did.
Let me share with you a perfect example from my own experience.
When I started working with Honey at the age of about a year and half (shortly after I got her) she was rough, tough, and ultra excited. She would run, jump, growl, nip, and offer all sorts of other behaviors that I didn’t’ want. I wanted her to sit.
Finally, she sits. I reward and praise. She repeats her actions, but finally she sits. I reward and praise. After about 15 minutes of this, she stopped doing everything but sitting. She quickly learned that all of those other behaviors meant no reward but sitting meant good stuff.
Now here’s where I made the mistake. I failed to consistently reinforce those behaviors. Now? She knows them, but sucks under distraction because she never had a good foundation built. I have to constantly go back and reinforce the good behaviors now in order to re-train her.
Big Problem: People lack the ability to enforce the rules they establish.
For example, they don’t want their dog up on the furniture. When they are home they tell their dogs down when they jump on the furniture. But when their mother or brother or friends come over they allow their dogs on the furniture.
They fail to tell their company their dogs are not allowed on the furniture and all this does is destroy the training they have done with them.
The rules should remain the same at all times for everyone. Regardless of status, feelings, etc…
This leads me to one of the best ways to quickly train your dog.
Pit bulls and Being Calm
When you see your puppy (or adult dog) being calm, laying there quiet, watching things or just relaxing, reward them by praising them and giving them a treat.
People are scared to do this because they think they might excite the dog. Well, they might do that, but if you never reward them for calm behavior and only reward for excited behavior then you have taught them to be excited.
By rewarding them for calm behavior you are teaching them that it’s okay to be calm and people will pay attention to them.
Let’s look at this scenario and ask yourself what would you do. It might even fit your specific situation.
Scenario #1: You are home from work one day and your dog is laying on the floor behaving. All day long you walk past them, over them, around them, and not once do you pet them or say anything to them.
Now they get up and walk over to you and you praise them, pet them, and even give them a treat.
What have you taught your dog?
If you answered, “I taught them that getting up and seeking me out is better than laying down and being calm” give yourself a helping of your favorite cookies because that is exactly what you have taught them.
Scenario #2: When people come home and their dogs are freaking out and jumping and spinning and barking people bend over and say, “yeah, I know I’m home. Good boy/girl! I love you too!”
What have you taught your dog?
If you answered, “That freaking out, jumping, and spinning is a good thing” give yourself a second helping of those cookies because you are right.
By ignoring the super excited behavior and praising their calm behavior you will teach them that being calm is what you want and they will quickly start to show you they understand what you want.
This does not mean you can’t rough house or have your dog jump up on you. What it means is, unless you tell your dog it’s okay to do these things, they should not do them.
Training your pit bull puppy pit bull is a life long process. However, you can set them up for success by following some of the information in this article.
Training takes time. From house manners to teaching the recall over a jump. The same rules apply. Consistent reinforcement of the behaviors you want and ignoring the behaviors you don’t want.
If you want to understand, solve or prevent all the behavioral problems and have the best-behaved pit on the block, get your hands on my book. It’s the only training guide you will ever need. Guaranteed.