What is positive reinforcement training?

Aug 04, 2021

What is positive reinforcement training?

Here at GAP SA, we use a method of training called ‘Positive Reinforcement’. Put simply, this means to reward our greys for doing a desirable behaviour or to reinforce good behaviour by adding a resource, like yummy treats, toys, or even a good pat. Positive reinforcement training is the best training method to use with any breed of dog but is especially important when training a greyhound. 

Positive reinforcement is a very clear and simple to understand method of communicating with our greys. Greyhounds have generally been waited on hand and foot during their racing lives and have never had to learn the concept of ‘right vs wrong’. It is important to remember that our greys do not have a concept of what behaviours are unsuitable for general pet life. There are no ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ behaviours but rather our greyhounds just need a little extra help and guidance to navigate them through the new experiences, interactions and lifestyles that are expected of them. 

Photo: @glenningham

How can we use positive reinforcement training with our greyhounds?

We help our greys learn their new lifestyles by rewarding behaviours we want to see continue and directing behaviours that aren’t suitable in their new environments to more appropriate behaviours. Things such as jumping up on the bed and couch can become relaxing on their own fluffy bed, inappropriate digging in the garden can move to appropriate digging in a fun designated sandpit and we can also redirect their attention to prevent counter surfing. Positive reinforcement also plays a huge role in how we socialise our greyhounds with other animals. The possibilities are endless! 

Commonly used rewards

When training our greys, it is important to understand what motivates them and use rewards that they think are worth their time. Food is the most commonly used reward and depending on your greyhound, different types of foods will motivate them differently. As a general rule, the lowest value treat to most dogs is kibble. This means they aren’t going to want to work very hard for the reward. Other dry treats like liver will motivate some greyhounds but for most has very little value – especially if it means having to move off of their beds! Higher value treats like fritz, cheese, and roast chicken will grab the attention of almost any greyhound and will have them eating out of your hand – literally! 

Some greyhounds are not motivated by food (even when being offered the good stuff), so using praise is another good way to let them know they have done the right thing. Telling them they are a good boy/girl for successfully completing a requested task or giving them a good ear scratch and cuddle! 

Depending on what motivates your dogs and gets them excited to learn, you may be able to vary their rewards and include things like toys and playtime to let them know they have done the right thing. Walks, sniffaries, and even naps can all be used as a form of reward! 

Remember: Training takes time, patience, and consistency! Take training slow and work at your greyhounds own pace, especially in the first few days and weeks or when training a more difficult task. And most importantly – have fun and enjoy yourself!

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