Dog training is a branch of animal behavior that seeks to teach dogs to behave. It is a way to achieve socialization in addition to enhancing the dog’s sense of fulfillment within its surroundings. The methods employed by dog trainers are meant to facilitate their ability to live harmoniously with people and other animals. Dog training is not a means of controlling or punishing a dog.
A common feature shared by most dog training books and DVDs is that it emphasizes the importance of positive reinforcement during dog training. Positive reinforcement, it is assumed, will make a dog understand better what constitutes good behavior and what does not. In fact, positive dog training is the application of complex behavior analysis that applies the dog’s environmental circumstances of past antecedents and current results to modify the dog’s behavior, either to aid in certain behavioral activities or take on certain tasks, or for the dog to behave more effectively in modern domestic life. While there may be different interpretations for how dog behavior influences humans, the underlying assumption remains that it is due to the dog’s experience within a context wherein the dog has either been neglected or has been subjected to some form of abuse.
Based on these assumptions, several dog training models have been developed. Among these are positive reinforcement, penalty-based, and model-rival training. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages when applied in dog training. Positive reinforcement is based on the idea that punishment – such as yelling at a disobedient dog – only teaches the dog that certain behaviors are undesirable. However, the prospect of receiving a reward later makes this method less effective.
Model-Rearner theory also applies to the use of the mirror method in positive reinforcement. According to this school, the act of pointing at an animal while repeating its name encourages the dog to repeat the action because it believes that its master wants it to behave that way. This school of thought goes against the common notion that dogs learn by doing. Under the model-rival training system, dogs receive no reward if they behave poorly. The dog is praised only if it performs excellently.
Electronic training methods are the most widely used and widespread conditioning techniques among dog owners. These train dogs through a combination of positive reinforcement, punishment, and cognitive learning. In electronic conditioning, a shock is given to a dog if it fails to follow commands. However, many people believe that these shock treatments are too mild and ineffective. Others argue that there is a great risk of neurological damage when these treatments are used for long periods of time.
During the process of cognitive learning, dogs are observed and are taught how to perform certain behaviors. The most popular type of conditioning is the observational learning where dogs are conditioned to behave depending on what their masters tell them to do. The word “observational” is rooted from the Latin “ob” for “with sight” and “learning” referring to the act of learning. Under this theory, a dog could be conditioned to behave better simply by watching his master to perform a certain action.
Some dog trainers prefer to use operant conditioning to condition the animals rather than observational learning. Clicker training is one example of an operant conditioning method wherein a small treat, like a coin, is clicked whenever the dog performs a specific command. After which, the trainer gives him a reward, like a toy. Clicker training is highly recommended by many dog experts as a supplementary method of teaching dogs. Through this method, trainers can easily teach the dogs without spending much time on individual training. However, there are some people who believe that this type of conditioning is not very effective.
Conditioned responses are learned through repetitive demonstrations. A well conditioned dog will quickly respond to a simple command such as, “Sit”. He will then follow the command until it is performed again. Eventually, these conditioned responses become a habit for him to perform. As a result, your trained pet dog may be able to do almost anything you ask of him. He will just need you to teach him the commands and to repeat them.