Operant Conditioning As A Training Method For Pets
Dog training is the process of behaviour analysis that makes use of the dog’s past antecedents, both of individual events and result thereof, to change the dog’s behaviour, either to help in certain activities or undertake certain tasks, or for it eventually to engage effectively in modern domestic life. Various types of theories have been developed and employed to study dog behaviour, but essentially all agree on two basic tenets as a basis for behaviour modification: (a) that behaviour is shaped by multiple experiences over an organism’s lifetime and (b) that reinforcement of desirable behaviour is possible via positive consequences (concentration on good behaviour as well as punishment of inappropriate behaviour). This article explores the theoretical foundations of behaviour modification and how this framework may be used to improve dog training practices.
The traditional methods of dog training were limited to punishing or hurting the dog in order to alter its behaviour, with potentially serious long term consequences for the dog. Therefore, prior to the implementation of positive reinforcement techniques, there was little opportunity to train the dog effectively, especially where the training was to take place in a controlled environment, such as a home or a park. In these circumstances, the owner was effectively trapped into a conflict-laden situation with the dog, with no immediate opportunity to resolve any conflicts or show the dog how to behave appropriately in certain situations. This means that traditional dog training methods are seriously outmoded by the positive reinforcement approach. However, positive reinforcement remains a useful tool for dog training, and is often the only humane way of dealing with behaviour problems.
Positive reinforcement is based on the principle that a dog’s behaviour is controlled by multiple influences, including previous experience, environmental conditions and previous behaviours. By using positive reinforcers, the trainer can ‚reward‘ the dog for behaving in a desired manner. For example, the trainer may reward the dog for sitting calmly on the command, or praising the dog for obeying an instruction. These reinforce successful behaviours and therefore strengthen a dog’s obedience abilities.
The core principles of classical conditioning are the same, although they have been refined and modernised to suit our needs today. Classical conditioning is based on a dog’s basic needs, which are fulfilled through the delivery of food and drink. Classical conditioning focuses on the associations between a stimulus, such as a click, and the subsequent reward, such as a treat. It may be associated with a positive event (such as playing with a child), or it may be associated with an unpleasant stimulus (for example, being spat at).
Classical conditioning is considered to be a powerful training method that produces quick and reliable results. It relies on the fact that the dog responds naturally to positive reinforcement and is more likely to comply if the positive event occurs repeatedly (as in the case of playing with a toy or walking towards an owner). If this occurs, the trainer develops a relationship with the animal, which is strengthened by the association between the treats and the pryor. It is thought that the pryor serves to motivate the dog to perform the desired behaviour; this is known as operant conditioning.
operant conditioning occurs when a dog behaves as a consequence of a previous act of good behavior. Good behavior is reinforced by meeting the same reaction with another reward. The dog may now be expected to repeat the prior behavior because the incentive is there. operant dog training focuses on the rewards only, without taking into consideration whether the good behavior was intentional or not.
Rewards in dog sports and dog agility training vary in their nature and function according to the game. In the case of dog sports, such as soccer and American football, the outcome is primarily survival of the person who scores most points. In dog agility events, the goal is to achieve the least amount of motion for the longest distance, with as few stops as possible. The equipment used includes flags, bells and winches that connect to an outside line, or to each other, to provide a length of rope to pull along.
In order to teach pets simple commands, like sit, stay, come and [put it] down, or to perform additional tricks, owners need to learn the same skills as humans. This requires using positive reinforcement – rewards – to encourage the desired behavior. Dogs learn best through positive reinforcement rather than negative ones, such as yelling or hitting. Proper dog training will enable owners to take full advantage of these resources and give pets not only the attention they desire, but also the skills they need to behave well and create a bond with their human companions.