The Roles Of Positive Reinforcement In Therapy Dog Training

Dog training is the process of teaching a dog to respond to commands, perform tricks and obey voice commands. 

Some dogs are easier to train than others, but even the most stubborn dog can be trained if you use positive reinforcement. 

This article will explain how positive reinforcement works in therapy dog training and why this method is so effective in training your own dog or puppy.

Beginner’s Guide to POSITIVE Reinforcement Dog Training
Positive reinforcement is a crucial aspect of therapy dog training.
Providing rewards and praise for good behavior can help to build confidence and encourage desired behaviors.
Socialization is an essential part of therapy dog training, helping the dog remain calm and responsive in different environments.
Understanding a dog’s body language can help handlers identify when they may be experiencing stress or fear.
Effective therapy dog training requires patience, consistency, and a well-planned training program.


Positive reinforcement can help you get your dog’s attention.

When you want to train a dog, you need to get his attention. You want him to be focused on what you are doing and what he needs to do next. 

Positive reinforcement can help with this because it is a way of communicating with your pet that he did something right or good by giving him something he likes (like treats). This will encourage him or her to repeat whatever behavior caused them receive the reward so that they can get another one!

Positive reinforcement is an essential aspect of therapy dog training. To learn more about how to train your therapy dog, check out our comprehensive guide on training your therapy dog.


Motivation is the key to success in any endeavor, but it’s especially important when training a dog. Positive reinforcement is one way of motivating your pet and getting them to do what you want them to do.

The first step in motivation is figuring out what motivates your dog–what makes him happy? What does he like most out of all the things he could have? For example, if your dog loves treats and playing fetch with tennis balls then those could be great motivators for training sessions!

Positive reinforcementTreats, praise, toys
Social interaction with humansAttention and affection from their handler and clients
Visiting familiar environmentsRepeated visits to familiar places can provide comfort and a sense of security
Desire to work and achieve goalsInnate desire to please their handler and help others
Happy, healthy lifestyleProper diet, exercise, and veterinary care promote overall well-being and motivation


Positive reinforcement is a great tool for getting a dog’s attention. Dogs that are distracted or have low attention span can be trained to focus on the owner with treats, toys, or other rewards.

Effective training techniques are essential to maximize the potential of your therapy dog. To learn about the most effective training methods, read our article on training techniques for therapy dogs, where we break down the different aspects of therapy dog training and provide valuable insights on proven techniques.


Directionality is a signal that instructs a dog to move in a certain direction. For example, if you want your dog to go left, point your finger in that direction and say “left.” If you want him/her to go right, point your finger in that direction and say “right.” Dogs respond better when directed with directional signals instead of verbal commands.

Proper socialization is crucial in therapy dog training to ensure your dog can behave appropriately around other dogs. Discover valuable insights on training your dog to behave around other dogs to help your therapy dog become a confident and well-behaved companion.


Reinforcement is a communication tool. It can be used to communicate to the dog what you want them to do, and it can also be used to communicate to the dog what you don’t want them to do.

For example, if you’re teaching your therapy dog how to sit on command, reinforcement will help you teach him that when he sits down because he hears “sit” that he gets some kind of reward (food or praise). 

This will make him more likely than not sit when asked in the future since there’s nothing negative associated with sitting. 

Conversely, if we were trying teach our therapy dogs not only how not go up on tables but also not jump off of them as well as stay away from other dangerous situations such as crossing streets without being led by a human handler then we would use negative reinforcement techniques such as snapping fingers near their faces or using shock collars where electricity goes through metal prongs placed around an animal’s neck which causes pain if they disobey commands given by their owners/trainers

Verbal cues and commands“Sit,” “Stay,” “Heel”
Positive reinforcementTreats, praise, toys
Body languageTail wagging, ear position, eye contact
Incentives to engage clientsVisits to hospitals, schools, nursing homes

This table highlights the different types of communication used in therapy dog training and provides examples of each. Verbal cues and commands such as “Sit,” “Stay,” and “Heel” are important for guiding the dog’s behavior. Positive reinforcement, including treats, praise, and toys, can be used to reward good behavior.

Body language such as tail wagging, ear position, and eye contact can provide feedback to the handler about the dog’s emotional state. Finally, incentives such as visits to hospitals, schools, and nursing homes can motivate therapy dogs to engage with clients.


Learning is the process of acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values or preferences. Learning is influenced by genetics and environment. Positive reinforcement can be used to increase the likelihood that an animal will repeat that behavior in the future.

Socialization is a vital aspect of therapy dog training to prepare them for different environments. In our article on the importance of socialization, we discuss the benefits of socialization and offer tips to help your therapy dog become comfortable in any setting.

Trust and Relaxation

The most important aspect of therapy dog training, and the one that you’ll be working on most often with your pup, is trust. 

A dog’s ability to trust a handler is essential to the success of therapy dog training. Trust is built by providing positive reinforcement for calm behavior and good choices. 

By encouraging your dog with praise or treats when he does something right, you are helping him relax around strangers and other dogs–which means he will be able to focus more fully on being friendly!

Anxiety and stress can be significant obstacles to a therapy dog’s success. In our guide on training your therapy dog to handle anxiety and stress, we provide helpful tips to help your dog cope with these challenges and improve their performance as a therapy dog.


The techniques of positive reinforcement can be used in many different ways, but they all come back to the same basic concept: rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. 

This process helps your dog learn how to behave in various situations and is an important part of dog training.

Further Reading

For more information on positive reinforcement training and dog behavior, check out these resources:

The Humane Society’s guide to positive reinforcement training: This guide provides an overview of positive reinforcement training techniques and highlights the benefits of using this type of training method.

The AKC’s guide to operant conditioning: This article explains operant conditioning theory and how it relates to positive reinforcement training, as well as providing practical advice on how to apply this technique to train your dog.

The Dogs Trust’s guide to positive reinforcement training with rewards: This guide explains the importance of using positive reinforcement to train your dog with rewards and shares useful tips on how to use this technique effectively.


What is positive reinforcement training?

Positive reinforcement training is a type of dog training that involves rewarding the dog for good behavior rather than punishing them for bad behavior. This type of training focuses on encouraging and reinforcing desired behaviors instead of using fear or intimidation to correct unwanted behaviors.

What are some examples of positive reinforcement training?

Positive reinforcement training can involve using treats, praise, or toys to reward your dog for obeying commands or demonstrating good behaviors. For example, you might give your dog a treat when they sit on command or play with their toys instead of chewing on furniture.

What are the benefits of positive reinforcement training?

Positive reinforcement training is a gentle and effective way to train your dog. It emphasizes building a strong bond between you and your pet and avoids causing fear or distress. It can also help to improve your dog’s confidence and behavior in the long-term.

Can positive reinforcement training be used for all types of dogs?

Yes, positive reinforcement training can be effective for any breed or age of dog. It is a flexible training technique that can be adapted to suit your dog’s individual needs and personality.

How can I get started with positive reinforcement training?

To get started with positive reinforcement training, you will need to identify the behaviors you want to reinforce, choose rewards that your dog enjoys, and use consistent cues or commands. It can be helpful to work with a professional trainer to learn more about how to apply this technique to your dog’s training.