The Porch Potty Guide to Positive Reinforcement in Dog Training

A Corgi sits with its owner after good behaviour

Positive reinforcement training is simple enough in principle: reward the behaviours you wish to repeat.

Positive reinforcement is a powerful and humane method for training dogs, focusing on rewarding desired behaviours to encourage their repetition. This approach not only proves effective in teaching new skills but also strengthens the bond between dogs and their owners. By emphasising rewards and positive interactions, positive reinforcement fosters a trusting and harmonious relationship, making training an enjoyable experience for both you and your furry friend.

Understanding Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement in dog training involves rewarding desired behaviours to encourage their repetition. This means giving your dog a treat, praise, or affection whenever they perform a behaviour you want to see more of, such as sitting on command or walking calmly on a leash. The basic premise is simple: behaviours that are rewarded are more likely to be repeated.

The science behind positive reinforcement is rooted in behavioural psychology. When a dog receives a reward for a specific behaviour, it creates a positive association in their mind. This positive feedback loop makes the dog more likely to repeat the behaviour in the future. Positive reinforcement also impacts a dog's emotional well-being by reducing stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of safety and trust between the dog and their owner. This method not only teaches new skills but also strengthens the overall bond, making training a positive and enjoyable experience for both the dog and the owner.

Benefits of Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement offers numerous advantages for dogs. This training method is adaptable to various environments, whether you're in the bustling city, coastal areas, or the rural outback.

One significant benefit of positive reinforcement is its effectiveness in addressing common behavioural issues. For instance, many dogs in Australia encounter wildlife such as birds, kangaroos, and possums, which can trigger excessive barking or chasing. By using positive reinforcement, you can teach your dog to remain calm and focused, rewarding them for ignoring these distractions.

In urban settings, positive reinforcement helps dogs adapt to the challenges of city living, such as walking on busy streets, riding in elevators, and interacting with other dogs and people in parks. Rewarding good behaviour in these situations reinforces calm and appropriate responses, making city life less stressful for both dogs and their owners.

Overall, positive reinforcement fosters a strong, trusting relationship between you and your dog, enhancing their ability to adapt to various situations and environments across Australia. This approach not only improves your dog’s behaviour but also contributes to their overall happiness and well-being.


A Golden Retriever sits in order to get a treat

 While treats are an awesome reward for good behaviours, there are other rewards you can use with your dog, such as pets, cuddles, and playing games.

Implementing Positive Reinforcement: Step-by-Step

Step 1: Set Realistic Goals

Begin by setting clear, achievable goals for your dog’s training. Focus on one behaviour at a time, such as sitting on command or walking politely on a leash. Break down complex behaviours into smaller, manageable steps to ensure your dog can succeed and build confidence.

Step 2: Choose the Right Rewards

Select rewards that your dog finds motivating. Popular Australian dog treats such as kangaroo jerky, liver treats, or even small pieces of cheese can be highly effective. Additionally, consider using favourite toys or verbal praise as rewards. The key is to use something your dog loves and will work hard to earn.

Step 3: Timing is Crucial

Reward your dog immediately after they perform the desired behaviour. This timing helps your dog associate the reward with the specific action. For example, if you're teaching your dog to sit, give the treat the moment their bottom touches the ground. Consistency in timing reinforces the behaviour you want to encourage.

Step 4: Identify and Reinforce Desired Behaviours

Pay attention to behaviours you want to reinforce. For leash manners in busy city parks, reward your dog for walking calmly beside you without pulling. If you're working on recall in off-leash areas, reward your dog as soon as they come back to you when called. Consistently reinforcing these behaviours helps your dog understand what is expected of them.

Step 5: Gradual Progression and Consistency

Gradually increase the difficulty of tasks as your dog becomes more proficient. For example, once your dog reliably sits on command at home, practice in more distracting environments. Consistency is key—practice regularly and maintain the same commands and rewards to avoid confusing your dog.

By following these steps, you can effectively implement positive reinforcement training, tailored to the diverse environments and lifestyles found in Australia. This approach not only improves your dog's behaviour but also strengthens your bond and makes training a rewarding experience for both of you.

Positive Reinforcement and Toilet Training

Toilet training is a crucial aspect of dog ownership, and positive reinforcement is an effective method to ensure success. This training approach can be particularly useful in teaching dogs where and when it is appropriate to go to the toilet, thereby reducing accidents and helping maintain a clean and pleasant home environment.

Establishing a Routine: Begin by establishing a consistent routine that suits your lifestyle. Take your dog outside to a specific area where you want them to go to the toilet at regular intervals, especially after meals, first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. Consistency in timing and location helps your dog learn the appropriate toilet habits more quickly.

Using Rewards: When your dog successfully goes to the toilet in the designated area, immediately reward them with a treat, praise, or play. This positive reinforcement makes the behaviour more likely to be repeated. It's important to choose rewards that are highly appealing to your dog to maximise motivation.

Signalling Success: Teach your dog a specific signal or command for toilet activities, such as "go potty" or "toilet time." Use this command consistently during their toilet routine to help them associate the command with the action. Reward them immediately after they follow the command, reinforcing the connection between the command and the desired behaviour.

Managing Accidents: If accidents occur, it's important to handle them calmly without punishment. Clean up accidents thoroughly to remove odours that might attract your dog back to the same spot. Instead, redirect them to the correct location and reward them for using it. This approach avoids creating fear or anxiety, which can hinder learning.

Progressive Training: As your dog becomes more reliable in their toilet habits, gradually extend the time between toilet breaks to help them learn to hold it for longer periods. Continue to use positive reinforcement to shape their behaviour as they adapt to new routines and environments.

By incorporating positive reinforcement into toilet training, you create a supportive environment that encourages your dog to learn in a stress-free and effective manner. This method not only speeds up the toilet training process but also strengthens the bond between you and your dog, making it a rewarding experience for both.

An Australian Shepherd runs through an agility course

Positive reinforcement training can help in a variety of different situations, from toilet training to agility training.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Inconsistent Reward Giving

One of the most common pitfalls in positive reinforcement training is inconsistent reward giving. Dogs need clear and consistent feedback to understand what behaviours are being rewarded. If rewards are given sporadically or for different behaviours, it can confuse your dog and slow their learning process. 

Solution: Make sure to reward your dog every time they perform the desired behaviour, especially in the early stages of training. As they become more consistent, you can gradually reduce the frequency of rewards, but initially, consistency is key.

Delayed Timing

Another frequent mistake is delayed timing when giving rewards. If there’s a delay between the behaviour and the reward, your dog may not associate the two correctly, making the training less effective.

Solution: Always reward your dog immediately after they perform the desired behaviour. This immediate reinforcement helps them understand which action is being rewarded. Keep treats or toys readily available during training sessions to ensure you can reward promptly.

Lack of Patience

Training a dog takes time, and it’s easy to become frustrated if progress seems slow. However, impatience can lead to inconsistent training and may cause stress for both you and your dog.

Solution: Embrace a patient mindset and understand that each dog learns at their own pace. Celebrate small successes and remain calm and positive, even when setbacks occur. Patience and a positive attitude will make the training process more enjoyable and effective.

Busy Lifestyles

For many Australians, busy lifestyles can make it challenging to maintain a consistent training schedule. Skipping training sessions or not practising regularly can hinder your dog’s progress.

Solution: Incorporate short training sessions into your daily routine. Even a few minutes of training each day can make a significant difference. Use everyday opportunities, such as meal times or walks, to practise commands and reinforce good behaviour.

By avoiding these common mistakes and focusing on consistency, patience, and timely rewards, you can make positive reinforcement training more effective and enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Tools and Resources for Ongoing Success

To continue your positive reinforcement training journey, here are some valuable Australian-based resources that offer further information, support, and training opportunities:


  • The Dog Trainer's Complete Guide to a Happy, Well-Behaved Pet by Victoria Stilwell: This book provides comprehensive insights into positive reinforcement techniques and practical training tips.
  • Barking Mad: A Canine Book of Wisdom by Tom Mitchell: Written by a renowned Australian dog trainer, this book offers a deep dive into understanding dog behaviour and training with positive reinforcement.


    • Australian Dog Lover: is a fantastic online resource featuring articles, tips, and advice on dog training, health, and lifestyle.
    • Positively: offers a wealth of information on positive reinforcement training, with articles, videos, and forums where you can connect with other dog owners and trainers.

    Local Training Classes

    • Delta Institute: The Delta Institute provides accredited dog training courses and workshops across Australia, focusing on positive reinforcement techniques. Visit to find a class near you.
    • Puppy School Australia: With locations nationwide, Puppy School Australia offers positive reinforcement-based training classes for puppies and adult dogs. More information can be found at
    • Australian Dog Training Association (ADTA): The ADTA hosts various dog training events and classes. Visit to find resources and training opportunities in your area.

    By utilising these resources, you can continue to develop your dog training skills, find community support, and ensure ongoing success in your positive reinforcement training journey.

    Final Thoughts

    Positive reinforcement training is a powerful, humane method that offers numerous benefits for both dogs and their owners. By rewarding desired behaviours, you can effectively teach new skills, address behavioural issues, and strengthen the bond with your dog. This approach promotes a trusting and harmonious relationship, making training an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

    We encourage Australian dog owners to embrace positive reinforcement as a way to enhance their relationship with their pets, promoting a happy and well-behaved dog. Share your own experiences with positive reinforcement training, join local dog training groups, or participate in community events to further your training journey. Together, we can create a supportive community that values and promotes positive, reward-based training methods for the well-being of our beloved dogs.

    For more information on training your dog, check out these articles:

    Keeping It Clean: How to Manage Dog Urine on Carpets and Sofas

    Crate Training Made Easy: Your Guide to a Happy, Secure Pet

    Puppy Training Schedule: Crafting the Perfect Routine

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