Dog trainers have come up with some excellent techniques to help reduce behavioral issues in dogs, such as destructive chewing, excessive barking, jumping on visitors, peeing in the house, and other bad habits.
Have you ever wondered how they come up with their methods of behavior modification? Well, the good dog trainers have a superior understanding of how dogs learn. They have adapted theory from behavioral science and turned that knowledge into practical skills for working with dogs.
Many use what is known as operant conditioning to train dogs. Operant conditioning is, basically, “training with consequences.” In other words, they use training that either reinforces good behavior or punishes bad behavior with consequences.
Operant Conditioning Basics
Take a moment to become more familiar with the following terms:
Positive means to add something. Negative means to take something away. Reinforcement is when we increase or maintain behavior.
1). Positive Reinforcement. Awarding positive behavior. When a dog listens to the trainer he or she is rewarded with a positive. For example, if the trainer tells the dog to bark, and she immediately does, the dog is rewarded with a treat. This teaches the dog to bark on command, and then she will expect a treat.
2). Negative Reinforcement. Where there is a positive, there is always a negative. This is when the trainer takes something away and the behavior is maintained or increased as a result. For example, we ask the dog to sit, and pull up the collar. The dog sits, and we release the pressure.
3). Positive Punishment. When the dog does something unpleasant the behavior is decreased or eliminated. For example, the dog begs for your dinner, and you make a sharp noise. The dog does not like that noise and associates it with begging. The begging ceases.
4). Negative Punishment. When the trainer takes away something the dog likes, the behavior is decreased and eliminated. For example, when the dog plays too roughly with a toy, we take away the toy. The dog will not play too roughly with the toy anymore.
5). Extinction. This is when the behavior is no longer reinforced, so it will eventually go away. For example, when the dog whines to come inside, but the trainer ignores his cries. The dog learns that nothing will happen when he whines, so he stops whining.
The Bottom Line
It is important to teach your dog how to properly behave, and with operant conditioning, you can start to educate your pet on how they should act around the house. As much as you love your dog, remember, you are their owner.
Just like how a good parent needs to discipline their children when they are being disobedient, rowdy, or rude, a dog owner needs to communicate to their dogs that they cannot bark all day or pee on the carpet.
It is important to be stern, but fair. If you become abusive towards your dog, they will fear you and will not learn anything. Whenever your dog is being a good boy, give them a treat to let them know you like their behavior.