Tracy’s Free Online Academy: Positive Reinforcement

By Tracy Pritchard, Dean of Butt Sniffers Academy

Positive Reinforcement training has become very popular in recent years because of its “dog friendly” approach. Though many humans find it undesirable because of the need to carry food or some sort of reward, one factor that doesn’t seem to be resonating with people is that positive reinforcement is not a training style.

It’s not?

No. It’s a life style.  

The Watering Bowl Tracy's Online Academy

When using this method to train our dogs, the human at the other end of the leash, if you will, needs to take some serious reflection time and examine who they are as a person.

Training your dog starts with you.

Let’s take discipline for example. Discipline is a word that gets misconstrued like it’s something you do after the dog makes a mistake. In reality, discipline is getting up every morning and taking your dog out to potty and then running through some training drills. Discipline is coming home and training, even when you are tired. Discipline is letting go of excuses and doing your homework. Discipline is for the human, not the dog. To discipline your dog you must discipline yourself first and follow the advice from your trainer. The dog can’t do that on his own.

Reflection time is all about asking and answering questions. How much does my dog receive for ‘free’? Or, do I let the dog get away with blowing me off? Am I providing adequate mental stimulation? Am I a providing entertainment? Is my dog left to his/her own devices? Where can I tweak my schedule so that we have more training time? Am I raising criteria? Have I allowed my dog to plateau in his/her behaviors? Do I set expectations and then require the dog to follow through? Do I have rules? When rules are broken, do I help my dog and clean him up or do I just give up?

Positive reinforcement is for strong, dedicated handlers who know what they want and how to get it.

Positive reinforcement is knowing how to control your environment and how to set your dog up for success.

Positive reinforcement is prevention of unwanted behaviors, management of environment, and knowing how to manipulate rewards.

To use positive reinforcement correctly you have to find the rewards in everything. From opening doors, to getting to sniff, nothing can be for free.

Positive reinforcement is synonymous to discipline not its antithesis. Without discipline positive reinforcement won’t work.


Our cage-free canine community extends beyond daycare or boarding or even the walls of our three locations. Things like the dog park in Forest Park Southeast, our #DoMoreWithYourDog events and even posting photos of every dog every day, are just examples of how we strive to build stronger bonds between dogs and their humans, whether or not it’s part of our standard set of offerings.

Tracy’s Free Online Academy is yet another piece of the overall dog/human relationship-building puzzle. In this series, the Dean of Butt Sniffers will offer insight and actionable advice to those who are interested in what they can do independently of visiting The Watering Bowl.