Paw Law Dog Training
Sports Academy

1053 E. Lake, Hanover Park, IL 60133   630-893-5789


What is Positive Reinforcement Training?

Some of the most common misconceptions about positive training are that all "positive" trainers do is throw food around and dogs trained with positive reinforcement will only perform if we have treats in our hands. These statements could not be further from the truth. When using positive reinforcement correctly, what we are doing is manipulating the consequences for the animal to get the kinds of behaviors we want.

Paw Lawís training methods apply the same kinds of positive motivation techniques on dogs that are used for training dolphins, sea lions, sea otters and killer whales. Ever been to Sea World or Brookfield Zooís Dolphin show? Ever wonder how they get these magnificent (and very large I might add) animals to perform certain behaviors? Trust me, trying to force an Orca killer whale to do ANYTHING, may result in you being eaten (why do you think they call them killer whales?) If you try to "correct" a dolphin, they will just swim away. So the marine mammal trainers had to devise an approach that would teach these animals that if they did what the trainers wanted, the trainers would then reward them for a job done well.

There is no question that behavior is reward driven. Dogs do what works. If a behavior results in something good happening, the dog will do that behavior over and over again as long as the behavior continues to be rewarding to the dog. Think about how you first taught your dog to sit. Did you yell at him every time he was standing or lying down, or did you tell him what a good dog he was if he put his butt on the ground when you asked? Since most dogs are initially rewarded for sitting, dogs learn quickly that "Sit Works".

In addition to using positive reinforcement to train obedience exercises, positive training can also be used to overcome many fears or aggression and to help you with solving other behavior problems. Paw Law stresses building a positive reinforcement history with your dog, proper management skills (if your dog gets into the garbage, get one with a locking lid!) and various techniques to get the kinds of behaviors you want without resorting to compulsion, coercion or punishment.

What is Clicker Training?

Letís go back to Sea World for a minute. Ever see the trainers use a whistle? Most people automatically think that the whistle is a command to get the animal to perform a behavior. WRONG! What the whistle really is, is signal or cue to the animal that it just did something right, and it should swim over to the trainer for its paycheck (a fish) for a job well done. The whistle is needed as a reward signal because dolphins (like dogs) donít think like humans do. Unlike humans who can understand that a reward is coming (that is why you go to work every day, even though you only get paid every 2 weeks), dogs need to be rewarded IMMEDIATELY for a behavior for that behavior to reoccur reliably. Thatís where the clicker comes in. Just like the whistle is a reward marker signal for the sea mammals at Sea World, a clicker will become the reward marker signal for your dog if you choose to learn dog training the Paw Law way.

Clicker training is both a training method and a training philosophy. The term "clicker training" was coined by Karen Pryor, a marine mammal trainer, who helped bring clicker training techniques to the world of dog training. It is a way to engage your dog's happy cooperation and turn his mind on to learning.

You don't even need a collar or leash to use this method, just a clicker and a pocketful of treats. The treats are your dogís paycheck for doing a "job". Why treats? For most dogs, treats are enjoyable and they will eagerly want to work for the treat paycheck. Treats are easy for the trainer, as most dogs will work for food and what is easier than cutting up some treats knowing that your dog will want to keep working to get paid. Treats are efficient, in that they get the dogs attention, quick & fast and if the treats are tiny (about the size of a pea), they are quickly devoured and the dog is ready to do something else to get paid. While most dogs find other things besides food "rewarding", like a game of tug, a walk outside, it is not practical to play tug or take a walk every time your dog sits on command while you are training "sit". Treats are also effective, even in a distracting if you have good treats, your dog will keep its focus on you and your $10,000 paycheck.

Clicker training is a pleasant, positive way to train. Instead of having to punish a dog's mistakes (as with traditional training methods) we instead look for good behaviors to reward. This means no physical corrections are necessary. In clicker training, a distinctive click-sound is used to mark the desired behavior. A reward, most often a tasty food tidbit, is given immediately after the click. The dog learns that the click means a reward is coming. Because the click "behavior marker" can be sounded at the precise moment the dog does the desired behavior, it sends a very clear message. The dog learns that whatever he was doing at the moment the click sounded will earn a reward. This makes him want to repeat the behavior. It becomes a game for the dog, trying to make the handler click his behavior. This allows shaping of more complex behaviors like "close the door" or "put your toys away."

Clicker training is low stress, fun, and highly rewarding for dogs and handlers alike. Clicker training is fun and works great for teaching new behaviors and also for changing bad habits. Clicker training allows us to teach very young pups and can be used with success by people who cannot (or prefer not to) use physical strength to "subdue" a dog. This means that even young children can safely take part in the dog's training.