Positive reinforcement/association

Reaching down to grab the very wet and disgusting ball out of Elsa's mouth I realized how far she has come.  She never use to want me to have the ball because that meant that our game was over.  She would turn her head but eventually hand it over.  She of course still does not want the game to end but when I say "drop" she gently opens her mouth for me to take it.  Why the change?  Because she gets a treat.  That and because she knows that I might just start the game up again at any moment. Positive reinforcement is so vital to canine behavior and keeping it...well, positive.  It is all about association; the link between two behaviors.   I take the ball in the end, but she gets a treat for giving it up.  Plus I make sure that I throw the ball again at some point during our walk.  That way the game hasn't truly ended until we leave the park or as they say, the fat lady sings.  :)

Positive reinforcement or association can be added easily to your day to day.   Elsa trots along nicely by my side once she gets her ya ya's out.  She knows that when she walks by  my side that treats will appear.  They don't come out often but it is worth her while to hang out there for when they do.  This is positive reinforcement. 

Positive association is a bit different but the same, sort of.   I have used association for nails.  Neither Luke nor Elsa enjoy having their nails done;  not too many dogs do.  But when I bring out the grinder, both circle with excitement.  They know that treats follow nails and I will continue this always.  As soon as their nails are done they get treats; not just one, but a few to make good and sure that it remains a positive.

Positive reinforcement is the act of linking a behavior to a reward.  This, ups the possibility of the behavior being offered again.  Once the behavior is learned you put the reward system on a random delivery schedule.  Perhaps you wait for the best or fastest behavior that your dog offers to reward.   Then you cut it back further to just every so often.  Complete elimination is up to you.  Depending on the behavior is how I factor that in.   Some behaviors should be rewarded once every so often, others don't need to be.

Positive association is creating a positive feeling around a negative activity, like nail cutting or grinding.  There are many things that dogs can baulk at throughout the day so you need to choose which of those need a positive association to.  Positive association can be done with our own behavior; you don't need treats for all associations.  Sometimes your  positive behavior to a situation can turn it around.  Take a little yapper (small dog) for example; who is going off on yours as you walk by.  You can either fuel a negative by pulling your dog away and getting upset or you can create a positive by chirping away happily while you pass them.

Plucking ears (for those who have hairy ear breeds) is another negative activity.  Treats are a must for this one unless your dog is not into treats of course.  Teeth scraping, bathing and the weekly physical; when you have a good look see.  Almost anything can be turned from something your dog doesn't want to do; to an activity that they tolerate due to the reward at the end. 

Don't get frustrated, associate.