R is for Reward-Based

reward based
I give my dogs cheese in stressful situations to reward them for good behavior.

My relationship with my dogs is based on what’s often called “positive reinforcement.” This is a form of operant conditioning with the goal of increasing the likelihood a behavior will be repeated by reinforcing it with a positive stimulus.

Dog gets cookie when he sits on cue –> Dog likely to sit again when he hears the cue.

In the field of psychology, positive reinforcement is one of four quadrants, and as far as I can tell, the only one that laymen actually understand. Even I have to consult the chart to keep track of the others.

An even better way to describe my dog-training philosophy is “reward-based.” Some people hear that and think that means I give my dogs treats all the time to get them to do what I want. Which is kind of true, but there are other rewards you can use, like praise, playtime, or petting.

The best way to get a dog (or anyone) to do what you want is to reward them when they do it. Make it really easy for them by setting them up for success.

For more on reward-based training and how to set up a dog for success, check out this post from The Good Dog Blog.

Sitting calmly at the Dog Days of Summer event last year.


For the A to Z Challenge, I’m using all positive language in my posts. Read the story of how positive training helped my reactive dog Isis in my book, Bark and Lunge!


Published by Kari Neumeyer

Writer, editor, dog mom, ovarian cancer survivor

6 thoughts on “R is for Reward-Based

  1. Without sounding like a comic book villain, I’ve discovered that operant conditioning works on husbands and children as well. Seriously, say thank you, acknowledge effort, give small tokens of appreciation and be pleasant when someone does something nice, does what you asked, or goes above and beyond what’s expected. You’d be surprised how well it works! Since I started using dog training techniques at home my nagging has disappeared, my kids do what I ask more often and my husband helps out around the house. Who knew this was so awesome?

  2. I’m all about the positive rewards for the canines. I came from an age and an area when/where people beat their dogs for behavioral issues. Positive reinforcement makes for better behavior and a stronger, more confident and well-balanced dog.

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