An Adult Oscar, a trim-colour Jack Russell, lying on a blanket with his two paws resting on a pair of socks.

Positive Reinforcement Training

As Pet Parents, sometimes it can be easy to lose our patience while training our dogs, especially when they refuse to follow commands you know that they clearly understand. Maybe it’s the language barrier, or our dogs just deciding they’d rather not do what we’d like them to do at that moment. 

Either way, sometimes it can be frustrating, with us losing our patience with training. After all, we don’t want training to be something we dread or think of as a chore but rather a time to bond with our dogs.

Oscar, Barking, Tears and Me

Darren wrote about his experience with Roscoe, his barking, and an incident with the ASDA delivery person. Well, mine has been similar and happened only in the past few months. 

Anyway, my next-door neighbour’s partner has moved in with him and brought her lovely King Charles Spaniel called Buttons along too. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? While I’ve gotten a new neighbour, Rambo and Oscar have gotten a new doggy neighbour too. 

Except, Oscar barks when he sees other dogs. It’s not out of aggression, but I think fear as he’s never really been one to be around other dog but also habit too. 

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About a couple of days after Buttons took up residency next door, he and Oscar noticed one another through the gap in the fence. Que the barking. Button’s Mum called him to stop, and all was silent except for Oscar. 

It took me chasing him around the garden, pretending to cry and luring him back into the house with the promise of treats to get him to stop.

An Introduction to Positive Reinforcement Training

As a Pet Parent, we can feel ashamed when we know our dogs aren’t as trained as well as we’d like, but that shame hits home a bit more when someone else notices it. Especially when your neighbour jokes, “Well, he certainly doesn’t like to shut up, does he?”

Although I am aware the comment was meant in good nature, it did make me want to work to resolve Oscar’s habit of continuous barking once and for all. 

So I took to Google; admittedly, I was at the end of my tether with the barking anyway. Oscar is three years old now, and I’ve never had an issue with any of my dogs barking before. Admittedly I was thinking about reaching out to a dog trainer, but I was a bit embarrassed.

At first, I wondered if Oscar being a quarter chihuahua might have something to do with his barking, especially since all my previous dogs have been either long-legged Jack Russells or miniatures. Then, I came across this article on the Dog’s Trust website that introduced me to Positive Reinforcement Training.

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What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

As I’ve said, Oscar is the first dog where I’ve had any issues with training, so I’ve never had to look at alternative training techniques. Everything my Grandparents and Parents taught me about dog training and their methods always worked, so I just always used those techniques. 

Positive Reinforcement Training is the idea of training your dog to understand that they will be rewarded if they do something good. At first, I was sceptical and didn’t want to be feeding Oscar treats all the time, but as I continued to read, I learnt that the reward didn’t always have to be treat-based. Much to Oscar’s disappointment. 

Rewards can vary from treats, toys, throwing the ball, and having a quick game of catch or even just using praise and cuddles or a good belly rub. 

After reading the article, I decided to give it ago, armed with Oscar’s Grain-Free Fish Training Treats and his favourite pair of socks – I told you he was a bit weird, instead of toys, he has a fascination and love for socks ever since he was a pup!

The Result of Positive Reinforcement Training

Now, positive reinforcement training doesn’t mean that it works overnight and changes your dog’s attitude or behaviour for life. It’s more of a work in progress than anything. 

But it’s been about a month now, and we certainly appear to be on the right path. Of course, Oscar still barks but seems to have learnt to stop once we acknowledge we’ve heard him. The only exceptions are for the neighbourhood cats or the greyhound who lives down the road, but the five continuous minutes of barking have shortened even then. 

It’s not perfect, but it’s progress, and I’ve learned that it’s precisely how Darren’s wrote about before, training with your dog it’s all about the eyes

Have you tried Positive Reinforcement training with your dog? Or are you considering it? Keep your eyes out for our next post where I share my positive reinforcement training tips that I’ve found has helped Oscar and me.

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