Secrets of Dog Training Professionals -
- By Aidan Bindoff
Have you ever wondered how really good dog trainers
come up with the techniques they use to solve
behaviour problems in dogs such as excessive barking,
destructive chewing, toileting in the house and
jumping up on visitors? Or how top dog trainers come
up with ways to train dogs in top obedience and
working competitions? Apart from a few
naturals, most really good dog trainers
have a very good understanding of how dogs learn.
They have adapted theory from the world of
behavioural science and turned that knowledge into
real-life practical skills for training dogs. This
article explains in plain English some of the science
and theory behind dog training, these really are
secrets of the dog training professionals!
Operant Conditioning is the term that scientists use
to describe what dog trainers call training
with consequences. That is, any training that
involves a consequence that either reinforces or
punishes behavior. There are 4 possible consequence
types used in Operant Conditioning, and 1
non-consequence. These are:
1. Positive Reinforcement: when we give a reward and
the behaviour increases or is maintained as a result,
we call this positive reinforcement (+R). e.g dog
sits when asked, we give a treat. Dog learns to sit
when asked in future.
2. Negative Reinforcement: when we take something
unpleasant away and the behaviour increases or is
maintained as a result, we call this negative
reinforcement (-R). e.g we ask dog to sit, pulling up
on collar, dog sits, we release pressure from the
collar. Dog learns to sit when asked in future.
3. Positive Punishment: when we do something
unpleasant and the behaviour is decreased or
eliminated as a result, we call this positive
punishment (+P). e.g dog goes to investigate kitchen
bench for food, we make a sharp noise. Dog learns not
to investigate kitchen benches for food in future.
4. Negative Punishment: when we take away something
the dog wants or enjoys and the behaviour is
decreased or eliminated as a result, we call this
negative punishment (-P). e.g dog plays too roughly
with another more timid dog, we leash rough dog and
remove the opportunity to play. Dog learns not to
play too roughly in future.
5. Extinction: when behaviour is no longer reinforced
and it eventually goes away, we call this extinction.
e.g dog is used to being allowed outside when he
whines at the door, but is suddenly no longer allowed
out when he whines. Dog learns not to whine at the
door. Extinction sometimes makes the target behaviour
worse before it gets better, sometimes significantly.
This is known as an extinction burst and
is usually a sign that the behaviour is about to
diminish rapidly. In the current example, the dog
might whine more often, more loudly, and for longer
periods before learning that whining doesnt
work for him any more.
Lets examine the terms more closely. Apart from
extinction, you will notice four words that can be
used in four different combinations. These are
reinforcement and punishment
and they are technical terms that scientists use when
discussing Operant Conditioning.
Positive means to add something. We add
the reward, or add the punisher. By contrast,
Negative means to take something away. We
take away the reward, or take away the unpleasant
Reinforcement is when we increase or
maintain behaviour. The behaviour happens more often,
more intensely, for longer periods, or it continues
to happen without reducing in frequency, intensity or
duration. By contrast, Punishment is when
we decrease or eliminate behaviour using consequence.
We reduce the frequency, intensity or duration of the
A common mistake is to assume that we have reinforced
or punished behaviour when in fact in future we
discover that the behaviour has not actually been
changed! Many dog trainers believe that praise is an
effective reinforcer. It may be, for some dogs in
some circumstances. The truth is we dont know
unless we see the behaviour that earned the praise
increase or keep occurring in the future. The same
applies to punishment. Yelling at a dog might stop it
from going through your rubbish bin while you are
there, but does it stop your dog going through the
rubbish bin while youre not there? Probably
not. A more effective approach is to use a more
secure rubbish bin, or put the rubbish bin in a place
which is inaccessible to the dog.
For more information, please visit
www.groups.yahoo.com/group/traininglevels/ for a Free
program and e-book that shows you how to train your
own dog, step-by-step, with the help of thousands of
others using the very same program to train their own
Aidan Bindoff is Editor of
http://www.PositivePetzine.com, a free ezine for
people training their own dogs. Each edition has easy
to use training advice based on positive
reinforcement methods. Subscribers have access to a
large archive of back-issues they can consult for
just about any behavior or behavior problem.
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