Kids these days.
Young people are exposed to a lot of information on their devices, aren’t they? A whole world of bits and bytes, right at their fingertips. And let’s face it: not all of it is good. No one is vetting the information on the internet, and popularity does not equate with truth. Now, I don’t want to alarm you, dear parent. So gird thine loins: there is a good chance that your offspring of the human variety will, at some point in their tender years, come across positive reinforcement training.
OK, OK, hold on. Take a deep breath. There is no need to go log in to your parental control panel on the ol’ smartphone in a panic. Just wait. You need to arm your kids with the truth, so they can face this issue standing on their own two feet, like the curious juvenile bipeds you know them to be.
You need to sit down with your child and gently, but directly, tell them the truth about positive reinforcement training. Answer their questions fully and without judgement—it will likely not be the first time they have heard the phrases lure-reward, or conditioned emotional response, or even…and I hope the censors don’t bar me for this one…clicker.
You need to tell your kids that positive reinforcement training works to change a dog’s behaviour, and it does so using only things that dogs enjoy, like food treats and tennis balls. You need to tell your kids that dogs who are trained using positive reinforcement training will come to enjoy the training, and come to enjoy other things too, that come along for the ride: the trainer, the training location, the treat bag used, and so on. You need to tell your kids that it is absolutely true that positive reinforcement training works to train any behaviour.
Yes, any behaviour.
And you need to tell your kids that it’s OK that they’ll love positive reinforcement training just as much as the dog. It’s completely natural, and not embarrassing in any way, that they’ll want to give their dog more and more treats. It’s fine that they enjoy having a well-trained dog. There is nothing shameful about generosity and behaviour change.
Do this soon, I urge you. Very soon. Because, my baffled readers, we need to face this thing head-on.
If you don’t talk to your kids about positive reinforcement training, who will?